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EDC backs Howard theater plan

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Evanston’s Economic Development Committee has recommended City Council approval of plans to bring the Rogers Park cabaret theater group, Theo Ubique, to a city-owned building at 721-723 Howard St.

The plan calls for the city to spend $1.4 million to renovate the building with the theater group to raise an additional $204,000.

Theo Ubique would get a 10-year lease on the building with four five-year renewal options and pay rent starting at $3,800, which would rise to $6,105 per month, or $20 a square foot, after two years, with annual cost-of-living adjustments after that.

Theo Ubique’s artistic director, Fred Anzevino, said at Wednesday’s EDC meeting that the neighborhood around the No Exit Cafe at 6970 N. Glenwood where the group now performs “was pretty bad” when the group arrived two decades ago.

“We brought the arts and music and immediately began winning all sorts of Jeff awards,” Anzevino said. He added that the theater had contributed to the revival of the Glenwood neighborhood and that the group would be a successful organization to represent Evanston.

Dick Moran, the group’s treasurer and a certified public accountant, said, “My role is to keep our business procedures formalized, and to keep the board from being too arty.”

He produced extensive financial records from the group for the city’s review, which seemed to assure committee members that Theo Ubique would be able to deliver on its promises.

“I’ve found them so easy to work with,” Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said. “I’ve been to several of their board meetings. They’re extremely impressive and well organized and provided us with four years of financial information.”

The new space would roughly double the theater group’s seating capacity to 86.

City funding for the project would come from the Howard-Ridge tax increment financing district.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said, “I’m not a huge fan of TIFs, but the TIF money is there and this project seems like a good match. I’m optimistic this can proceed to great success.”

The agreement calls for completion of renovations to the building in time for the theater group to occupy it by July 1, 2018.

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