Leaders of the Evanston Art Center will ask aldermen tonight for 60 days to develop a plan to let the group stay at the lakefront Harley Clarke mansion.

The non-profit, which has an annual operating budget of over $1.1 million, has enjoyed a $1 a year lease on the roughly 16,000 square foot city-owned building for decades.

If it were to pay rent equivalent to what the city charges tenants at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, it would generate roughly $200,000 a year that could be used to fund needed capital improvements to the property.

In a presentation prepared for tonight’s meeting, Arts Center Executive Director Norah Diedrich says the group is willing to modify its lease terms “correlated to the level of capital investment required of EAC.”

It’s not clear whether the group is prepared to raise fees it charges its 2,100 students for classes, trim staffing, or what other measures it hopes to take to cover any new costs.

The art center’s leadership has spent over a year looking at possible alternative sites and made an offer on one property that was turned down.

Diedrich says the group has concluded it would cost $4 million to $8 million to purchase and renovate a new space — a cost that “far exceeds” its financial capacity.

The current lease on the mansion, which runs through 2021, is subject to early termination by either party with sufficient notice.

Top: An image of a painting class from the art center’s presentation.

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Related document

HSC committee packet with EAC presentation

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. The answer is no

    This is the same tenant that got rent for $1 a year. Despite that huge giveaway on rent for many years, this tenant failed in its obligation under that same lease to maintain the building. (The city is also at fault for not routinely inspecting the building and holding its tenant to the terms of the lease). Now they have left the building in shambles and they figure that the city has no better option than to keep this bad deal.

    Based on their conduct under their lease with the city, this tenant's lease needs to be terminated now and they need to be forced to leave at the end of the 60 days then they should be barred from leasing any city-owned property until the maintenance expenses from the current lease are paid in full.

    Fool the city of Evanston once, shame on you. Fool the city of Evanston, shame on the city of Evanston. And the designation "non profit" does not mean that no one is making money there.

    1. Do we know the EAC lease terms?

      Is there a public record of the Evanston Art Center's lease terms? Without knowing the actual terms of the lease, there may be no blame on EAC for waiting for the city to take care of its own property.

      I would be interested in a factual outline of the lease terms before assigning blame to one party or the other. 

      1. The lease is public record

        The lease is public record- if it is not on the city web site, you can FOI it.  Many people already have copies.

        Bottom line the Art Center was responsible for the majority of the repairs and upgrades.  There is an issue as if they had responsible for the exterior, since the lease is written poorly.  You should understand that a $1  was to require them to do the work.

        The Mayor claims both parties are responsible, I believe through conversation I have had, the City has been aware of this issue for a long time, yet the Art Center had the political connections to keep the city from going after them, this entire deal of selling it has now exposed the problem.

        It is mess, but I think many people feel the Art Center needs to step up to the plate and start paying a reasonable rent.   It is also clear the city needs to take control of the building and the relationship needs to be a true landlord tenant.

        The Art Center's days may be numbered if the majority of council members are thinking like Burrus and Rainey,

  2. Extend the lease

    Extend the lease for $ 1 for two months plus require a $ 250,000 security deposit for any damages or lack of maintenance that may be found.

  3. Let’s be clear

    Contrary to what this article may lead readers to believe, the Evanston Art Center (EAC) is a current tenant at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, running 3 studios from the basement and paying over $46,000 in rent and required community service. Additionally, EAC spends over $54,000 annually to cover occupancy costs at 2603 Sheridan Road.

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