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The proposed 500-seat Grace Music Theater on Davis Street in downtown Evanston won support this afternoon from city staff for its requested zoning variations.

The variations proposed developer Daniel Colker for the building at 1026 Davis St. include a three-foot increase in the permitted building height, to 45 feet, elimination of a 15-foot rear yard setback and placement of a required loading dock in an access easement from the building next door, at the corner of Davis and Oak Avenue.

Architects Mark Wheeler and Lawrence Kearns presented the plans to the Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee

Wheeler said the project would renovate the building on the corner, long the home to the StudioMedia Recording Company, and tear down the building next door that now houses Tom Thumb Hobbies & Crafts.

“The purpose of the project is to have a very high caliber listening environment” in the new theater, Wheeler added.

Top: Architects Mark Wheeler and Lawrence Kearns describing the project to the committee. Above: A floor plan showing how the new building would be linked to the existing recording studio property, and that the new building would include a small restaurant area facing Davis.

Kearns said it would be “a very intimate environment,” and he said performers, rather than playing for thousands of people elsewhere, “would be drawn to this venue for its acoustics.”

Regarding the new building’s height, Kearns said the proposed design keeps the height lower on the Davis street frontage, by pushing the taller auditorium space to the rear.

“You don’t want to kill the street life by having a dormant box on the street,” he added.

With today’s approval, the proposal now goes to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a hearing at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The ZBA will make a recommendation to the City Council, which makes the final determination on whether to approve the project.

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3 Comments

  1. This still makes little sense to me

    In regards to there being NO PARKING for 500 people in that area…oh wait, they'll just push of for blocks into the surrounding residential area right there and then residents will have nowhere to park?  AWESOME.

    I can't wait to have a "very high caliber" drive around for an hour looking for a spot and then a long "very intimate" walk to my home from wherever I managed to park.

    1. Your objection makes little sense to me

      "That area" happens to include two very large parking structures. One of which, while usually being well below capacity, is a mere two blocks away. (The other is another block, block-and-a-half away) I know it's unthinkable – someone would park down at Oak and Dempster rather than in the parking ramp – but it's RIGHT THERE.

      Of course, you point out how foolishly lazy so many of our perfectly-able fellow citizens are. Unless the parking is the three spaces directly in front of the door, there's NO PARKING!

      Here's a free solution for the venue operators: Hire a valet service and instruct them to park all of the cars in the Sherman garage. Here's a second: validate garage parking.

      1. Here’s the sense to me

        Lazy, perhaps, yes that is true.  That wasn't actually my thought, though.  I was thinking attendees of the theater would more likely aim for FREE street parking right there before paying for parking anywhere, especially after paying for tickets and whatever fees are associated with them.  Those actually working in the theater and restaurant certainly are going to aim to park for free.

        But I'm also thinking of traffic and street layout.  There's the parking garage on Davis and Benson, but a driver (perhaps unfamiliar with the downtown streets) would have already passed that one flowing west down Davis toward the theater, and would how well would they find there way back there, hopefully when they swing south and around they don't sneak back up Elmwood.  Whoops, they'd have to go all the way around again.  And maybe they'd head up Ridge to Church and be lucky enough to be in the left hand lane when they hit the viaduct right before Maple so they can turn left and go down the block to the garage past the Century Theater.  But they'd have to know the garage is there first.  The garages aren't that far, but when it's Friday night and you're not from the area and you're late for the show are you going to find them?

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