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A city panel is scheduled to conduct a final review this week of plans to renovate a city-owned building on Howard Street to become the new home for a cabaret theater group.

Theo Ubique, now based in Rogers Park, has negotiated a 10-year lease with the city that has renewal options for four additional five-year terms.


721-723 Howard in a July 2017 image from Google Maps.

The building at 721-723 Howard St. was acquired by the city in March 2014 from BMO Harris Bank, which had foreclosed on the property.

The plans would see the bow-truss building, formerly occupied by three storefront businesses, converted to provide seating for about 84 theater patrons as well as providing kitchen and bar space to serve them food ahead of the performances.

The renovation project for the roughly 3,600 square foot storefront building has an estimated price tag of $1.4 million, with the theater group to provide $204,450 toward the cost.

The project will be funded from the city’s Capital Improvement Program and the Howard Ridge TIF is to issue debt and pay the debt service costs for the project.

At a November 2016 meeting at which the city’s Economic Development Committee recommended approval of the project, Fred Anzevino, artistic director of Theo Ubique, said the theater had contributed to the revival of the Glenwood Avenue in Rogers Park where it started 20 years ago.


Fred Anzevino.

“We brought the arts and music and immediately began winning all sorts of Jeff awards,” Anzevino said. He promised that the group would also be successful in Evanston.

Dick Moran, the group’s treasurer and a certified public accountant, said, “My role is to keep our business procedures formalized, and to keep the board from being too arty.”

He produced extensive financial records from the group for the city’s review, which seemed to assure committee members that Theo Ubique would be able to deliver on its promises.

“I’ve found them so easy to work with,” Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, told the EDC. “I’ve been to several of their board meetings. They’re extremely impressive and well organized and provided us with four years of financial information.”

The Design and Project Review Committee meeting to conduct a final review of the construction plans is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Civic Center.


Update 12/22/17: The Design and Project Review Committee voted 10-0 at its Wednesday afternoon meeting to approve the plans for the theater project.


Related stories

City reaches agreement for theater on Howard (3/13/17)

EDC backs Howard theater plan (11/18/16)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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15 Comments

  1. If the group is so successful–

    Then why would Theo Ubique need city financing ? They should be able to get a bank loan. Does the group pay for all maintenance and enhancements ? Market rent? or is this another give-a-way by the ‘artsy’ people on the Council ? It would be interesting to see how many Council members, Mayor and city officials ever/regularly attend these theaters they ‘value so highly.’ TIF is not a free pot of gold. The money, if ever there [look at TIF costs and values of properties so far—not good] at the end of the Yellow Brick Road, means the city—and TAXPAYERS—have been without the revenue all those years.

    1. None come to our shows

      i can tell you none of them has ever attended a 2nd Act Players performance and we’ve veen producing plays in Evanston for five years now. I welcome any theater group to Evanston but don’t expect elected officials to buy tickets for their shows.

    2. Why don’t you walk out your

      Why don’t you walk out your door. Better yet, walk down Howard Evanston OR Chicago side. What do you see? That’s right…nothing. It’s been NOTHING for 30 years. Actually less even with the crime. Having this theatre there IS the pot of gold Howard street BOTH sides need. Honestly. I can only imagine what would please a person like you. I guess ANOTHER 30 years of the same trash drifting up and down Howard. Having this theatre there is an absolute GOLD MINE. That is, to the people who actually get out of their house to enjoy it. Second thought, even to the ones who don’t. The spruced up area will be good for everyone. Save your “oh-the-tax-money” argument. YOU certainly haven’t come up with something AT ALL in 30 years.

      1. Look what was tried—we now await you opening a business there
        Wasn’t Peckish Pig suppose to transform Howard Street ?
        What about Edwardo’s ? Some of the best pizza. Look how [not] long they lasted.
        I guess you want to just keep throwing money after project after project and hope something sticks—just as long as its somebody else’s [taxpayers who would never go there anyway].
        If the theater is so good a bank–or better yet you and others who feel like you–finance it.

        1. Yep. That’s EXACTLY right.
          Yep. That’s EXACTLY right.
          It’s laughable you bring up Edwardos.
          What was that? The 80s?
          Peckish Pig hasn’t even been there long.
          I really haven’t patience for you people that sit and sit and sit for DECADES wanting the perfect fit.
          You do nothing except criticize.
          Everyone else….making a move.
          Even if that move is a gamble it FAR more then any of you thought up.

        2. Peckish Pig: thriving, drawing accolades, energizing Howard St.

          “Look how [not] long they lasted” referring to Peckish Pig and another restsurant

          Um, Peckish Pig is still open and thriving on Howard Street.  In fact, it is drawing accolades for Evanston as a destination for good food.  One recent article highlighted Evanston as a suburb in the United States that is worth a visit for its restaurants and classy bars.  And click the link, the article specifically mentions Peckish Pig and another nearby business, the fabulous Ward 8:

          “On the food front, certain suburbs distinguish themselves as having not just acceptable sustenance, but true destination-worthy eats that will inspire you to forget about whatever weird conspiracy theories you may have cooked up about your neighbors.”

          https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/best-…in-america-for-food

          Busy restaurant with good food. Lots of business. Neighbors love it. People are traveling there from outside the neighborhood. Bringing in tax revenue to the City of Evanston.  You really ought to give it a try or at least recognize that Peckish Pig is an asset to its neighborhood and all of Evanston.

          Thanks for specifically mentioning Peckish Pig so we who love Peckish Pig can spread the word about its success. With Peckish Pig and Ward 8 demonstrating the potential for transforming Howard Street and for establishing a foundation for successful destination businesses on Howard Street as assets to the city (including more tax revenue!!!), I say bring on the new theater!  

          1. Read the post

            You wrote “Look how [not] long they lasted” referring to Peckish Pig and another restsurant

            =============

            The  original comment was about how long the pizza place lasted.

            If the Pig is so successful, I guess the area has already been transformed, people drive from Lake Shore Dr. and  all the north shore to experience the great social/culture of Howard ?

            Read the crime reports about Howard five blocks on both sides. 

          2. We have a good start—Howard Street is transforming

            Peckish Pig and Ward 8 are helping transform Howard Street as destination businesses. But two businesses cannot do it alone. The theater will be another destination business. With its history of success in its current fairly nearby location, I am looking forward to going there myself

            I agree…sitting on the sidelines waiting for something good to happen on Howard Street did not bring change. People of vision are making it better for all of Evanston to benefit (hint: nice places to go and tax revenue are assets for everyone in Evanston). And crime is way down in their areas of Howard Street and more destination businesses will do the same in the areas that are further away from them on Howard.  Hop in your car and head on over for a visit to Peckish Pig and Ward 8 tonight!

          3. Howard St…same old stuff…….

            I wouldn’t care if the Pump Room came to Howard St.   You’d never see me or any of my friends walking in that neighborhood at night, or parking our cars in that location.   ….hasn’t changed since at least the 1950s…….it is what it is.

          4. verna

            Please stay away, Verna. The Valets need every parking space they can get. Thanks for your cooperation.

          5. parking

            My post states that i DO stay away…so you actually didn’t read it correctly.   I also don’t let valet people drive my car.  

          6. Sorry that you are missing out

            I used to feel the same way about Howard Street. But times have changed, verna.  I love going to Peckish Pig and Ward 8. Both are classy places in nice areas of Howard Street

            Sorry to hear that you and your friends are losing out on being part of that change. Progress!

  2. Cost is not justifiable

    Renovating an existing building at over $388 per square foot is simply an outrageous cost, especially given the limited equity commitment of the lessee. These are City funds. Vote no on Ald. Rainey’s uneconomic project.

  3. Subscriptions to the theaters ?

    Maybe the way to settle how many/where we need, is for the theaters to issue subscriptions and base their budgets [and how well they  are expected to do] on say that being 80% of their revenue.

    Few will probably remember but up to the early/mid 70s, the Wilmette Theater showed mostly soft core porn [Skokie theater was somewhat the same]. Of course residents did not like that and neither did  the owner who said he would stop and show family oriented films if residents and others would subscribe to the family films—that of course went over like a lead balloon. [What did change things was when Loop theaters that showed art/foreign films closed and Wilmette and Devon took up those kinds of shows.]

    So let theater buffs commit in advance to their theaters and get the city [taxpayers] out of the business ! Maybe they can also open movie theaters on Howard ?

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