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Evanston music theater plan clears initial hurdle

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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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