A new cost estimate for building a theater on Howard Street in Evanston pegs the price at a minimum of $5.5 million dollars.

That’s more than triple the $1.7 million estimated cost of a version of the project that aldermen rejected three years ago — largely because that price was nearly three times the original $600,000 project cost estimate.

The two previous plans were for a city-owned building at 727-29 Howard. The latest estimate is for another city-owned property at 721-23 Howard.

The City Council tonight is not scheduled to take any action on the construction project, but is being asked to approve an 18-month lease that would let the Strawdog Theatre Company use another city-owned building on Howard, the former police outpost at 633 Howard, as an office and rehersal space while plans are developed to bring the group to a permanent location in Evanston.

Strawdog, which will soon lose its existing rented space in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood to the wrecking ball, has lined up a temporary performance space at the Factory Theatre at 1623 West Howard in Chicago, about a half mile east of the police outpost site.

City officials describe the theater project as a key component of the city’s revitalization efforts on Howard and say in a memo to aldermen say they are “exploring opportunities” for funding the project, with the Howard/Ridge tax increment financing district “likely to be a key source of funds.”

It’s unclear at this point how much funding Strawdog, the city’s favored tenant for the planned theater, would bring to the table.

Related story

Aldermen asked to pay for Howard theater design (9/21/15)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Out of control

    This is premature due to the infancy and lack of detailed information about the theater project, but i just hope that a theater on howard street isn't the sole objective, but that a financially viable theater with sustainable operations and limited risk to taxpayers is the objective. I have ZERO confidence that necessary and appropriate assumptions will be used to evaluate this project since there has been long standing advocacy to develop Howard Street. I'm all for progress and growth, but please don't use taxpayer money.

    1. Oh Great, Who’s gonna pay for this!!

      Property taxes are out of control, dog beaches eating up our money, and now this?!?!?!?  I'm so upset I think I might just move to Northbrook!!

    2. Moratorium on theaters

      City government and groups seem to want moratoriums on one thing after another.

      How about one on theaters and art facilities until the city is in better shape—can pay for alley repairs, taxes cut by say 20%, Council stops gifts/loans/subsidies, Council and other bodies learn what government is really there for and start taking care of real business instead of pet projects, make Evanston attractive to new business–service, retail, manufacturing.  Have a minimum condition of this or 10 years on the moratorium.

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