Tim Evans, executive director of Northlight Theatre, told aldermen this week that the group would like to return to Evanston where it was born 41 years ago.

But Evans said Northlight has yet to begin a fundraising campaign to come up with the estimated $4 million to $6 million cost of constructing the theater portion of what’s envisioned as a $37 million mixed use development on the southeast corner of Benson Avenue and Clark Street downtown.

The non-profit Northlight, in its latest report to the Internal Revenue Service, says it lost nearly $100,000 on revenues of $2.78 million in its 2013-14 fiscal year.

Northlight has been based at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie since 1998. Its long-rumored interest in returning to Evanston was first publicly confirmed last week.

Evans said Northlight was looking for “an urban, active location” with transportation and dining options nearby and that downtown Evanston would be “an exciting opportunity.”

“We want to provide a central hub for the cultural life of Evanston,” he added.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl responded, “We’d be very happy to have you here, too.”

Publicly identifying an anchor tenant for the performing arts space helps move the concept forward, but City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said staff was asking for no commitment from the City Council at this point, beyond authorizing staff to continue to work to try to bring together a viable proposal for the project.

“It’s all still in the working stage,” Bobkiewicz said, “but it’s an exciting opportunity.”

The project also drew an endorsement Monday from the owner of one of the businesses that likely would be disrupted by new construction on the site.

Jason Balla, who bought The Stained Glass wine bar bistro last year, said the new performing arts center would be “an amazing opportunity.”

Balla, who said he spent 20 years as a performer with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, also said he hoped The Stained Glass might become a restaurant tenant in the new facility.

Related stories

Northlight hopes to return to Evanston (10/15/15)

Northlight plans to move back to Evanston (Chicago Tribune 10/15/15)

Downtown arts center cost pegged at $37 million (7/27/15)

No money in place for new theater concept (6/16/15)

Developer considers downtown theater concept (6/15/15)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Could they make it this time in Evanston ?
    As I recall they had been in two locations in Evanston before moving to Skokie—school north of Lincoln on Greenbay and on Chicago Ave. where the movie theater was. If the school and a developer wanted the land, that was not the theaters fault. But if such a good theater, why could they not find another spot in Evanston and find some property owner who wanted them ?
    Were they profitable when in Evanston—and by profitable meaning earning a larger return than alternative business/residential opportunities ? Sounds like did not do any better in Skokie.

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