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Evanston works on arts plans as Chicago unveils one

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With the City of Chicago unveiling a draft of its Cultural Plan today, Evanston officials are moving ahead with similar projects of their own.

The consultants studying the potential for developing one or more arts venues in downtown Evanston will hold a series of focus groups tomorrow at the Civic Center and are scheduled to complete thei work by the end of September. That project is funded largely be a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The draft Chicago plan unveiled this morning is expected to be turned into final form by sometime this fall.

Evanston City Planner Dennis Marino said the consultants here have taken a look at as many as two dozen properties downtown as possible arts venues and are narrowing that list to four or five possibilities.

They are expected to come up with plans for possible renovation of those facilities and report on strategies for a financial campaign that could bring one or more of the projects to fruition.

At a noontime meeting with representatives from more than a dozen local arts groups on Thursday, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said there also are several private proposals in the works for music venues downtown that would be tied to restaurant concepts.

In addition to the proposal for the Grace Music Theater in the 1000 block of Davis Street, which is currently on hold as its backers try to raise funds for the project, Bobkiewicz said there are plans to convert the space that formerly housed two restaurants at 1012-14 Church St. into a new restaurant with music performance spaces as well as another, similar project being proposed for a different space on Davis.

The City Council last Monday approved spending $25,000 on a project to build a city-wide consensus about what the community needs and wants from the arts.

That planning effort comes as the Evanston Arts Center looks for a new home away from the city-owned Hadley Clarke Mansion and the tenants at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center try to reach agreement on a new relationship with the city to cover the long-range cost of capital improvement costs to the former school building.

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