Opponents of  the proposed deal to expand Piven Theatre Workshop’s footprint at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center are circulation a petition against the deal ahead of Monday’s Evanston City Council meeting.

More than 100 people have signed the online petition so far.

Petition organizers claim that the deal, under which Piven would get free rent for a half-century in return for over $3 million in upgrades to the building — will end up costing taxpayers the equivalent of $26 million in lost rent over the term of the deal.

Piven is proposing more than doubling the space it occupies in the building and replacing its current 70-seat theater with one seating 200 people.

Most of the proposed expansion would be initially paid for by a loan from the city, which, under the plan, Piven would repay over time.

The proposed arrangement has drawn strong opposition from some other arts groups now housed at Noyes.

Related stories

Panel backs Piven expansion at Noyes

Panel puts Piven plan on hold

Piven makes its case for Noyes project

Piven deal would cost taxpayers millions

Piven plan for Noyes draws complaints

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Reasons to sign the petition

    I have lived in Evanston for over 30 years and have been a homeowner for 20 years. I have a child who went through the Evanston public school system.  I consider myself quite liberal and I think support of the arts is very important.  And I love live theater.

    There are several reasons why I am AGAINST the proposed financial arrangement by the city of Evanston on behalf of Piven Theatre.  First, I think the Actors Gymnasium and Evanston Children's Choir are no less valuable than Piven.

    Second, I think Evanston should be no less supportive of the various artists who have been tenants at the Noyes Cultural Center than Piven.  If the rents need to be raised, then do so, but please don't hand Noyes over to Piven and lock the city into a long-term subsidy.

    If the city wants to help bring in theater-goers who might have dinner, buy something, etc. while in Evanston to see a play, the theater should be DOWNTOWN where there are many restaurants and stores, not on Noyes Street, which has neither the shopping and dining places or the parking needed to get maximum economic benefit from people coming to Evanston to see plays.

    Next, Piven has no track record for putting on the number of plays they are proposing. The name Piven is not a guarantee that audiences will flock to these plays and fill the seats. Anyway, since Piven has produced several Hollywood actors with big pockets, whyare they not being solicited to underwrite a new theater for Piven that does not take space from other worthy arts groups and individual artists.

    Finally, I just got my property tax bill and even though property values have gone down, the property taxes are getting so high that I may be forced to leave Evanston.  I am sure that I am not alone in this situation.  Did anyone consider looking for investors willing to turn the old Varsity theater or some other place in the downtown area into a place where live theater could be performed? 

  2. What is the purpose/goal of the ‘arts’ groups/locations

    Do/should they exist and use space to develop an appreciaton of the arts, esp. to K-12 students or are they are trying to be government supported professional training for those hoping to get jobs ?

    If the former I think many would support them, if the latter, not.  Why should we pay to get them jobs—if a few or any will be able to ever get jobs in a crowded market where so many think the government should support them in getting low paying jobs—if any.

  3. Good intentions, but bad negotiations

    I suspect that Piven and it's "several Hollywood actors with big pockets" may very well be interested in underwriting Piven, just not underwriting it in Evanston, but in Chicago.  After all, whenever Piven has held their big annual fundraiser it always happens with those big name actors and always in Chicago.

    I also suspect that our neighboring communities may have also solicited Piven about leaving Evanston and therefore Evanston has gotten its undies in a bunch and feel they must work to retain Piven.

    It's a no win for the politicians. They get flack if Piven is allowed to leave and they didn't make great efforts to retain an Evanston "institution" and support the arts, blah blah, and they get flack for trying to create a financial subsidy to keep them located here.

    Good intentions but bad negotiations here. If Piven thinks they have a better deal elsewhere, let 'em go. If they can't get a better deal elsewhere, they will stay where they are, no subsidy needed.

  4. Read what your friends and neighbors have to say….

    I recommend that you click on the link in this article to the Citizens for Noyes petition web page, look at the bottom of the page and you can see dozens of comments written by people explaining why they signed the petition. Even if you are not familiar with any of the people who wrote there, it still is interesting to read what they had to say about this issue.

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