Evanston city staff will ask the City Council tonight for four more months to work out plans to turn a city-owned building on Howard Street into a theater.

Chicago’s City Lit Theatre Company has been in talks with the city since January about the building at 727-29 Howard St., which the city purchased in February 2011.

While preliminary architectural plans have been prepared for modifications to the building to house the theater, the parties have been unable to reach agreement on just how extensive the renovations should be and how they’ll be paid for.

Top: A rendering of a remodeled space with a higher theater roof. Above: The building now has nine-foot ceilings and a stage left over from its former use as a storefront church.

The existing building has about 4,160 square feet — less than the 5,000 square feet the company has in its existing location.

Architect Mike Vasilko says that raising the roof to provide space for a theatrical lighting grid and a control booth mezzanine would increase the size to 4,840 square feet.

Adding a second floor space above the theater would raise the total to about 7,440 square feet.

A rendering of the two story design that the theater group’s leaders prefer for the extra space it would provide.

Preliminary cost estimates suggest that raising the roof and doing other work to convert the space for theater use would cost about $600,000 and added the second story would boost the cost by roughly another $250,000.

Under preliminary deal terms, which the parties have so far failed to reach agreement on, the theater company would receive subsidies from the city totaling at least $700,000 over a three-year period in which it would rent the building from the city, before acquiring it for the $325,000 the city paid to buy it.

The exterior of the existing building.

But the theater company, which has operated on an annual budget averaging about $115,000 in recent years, says it needs more time to devise a fundraising campaign to cover those costs, and the added operating costs of the new space.

The theater now rents space from a church in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood. City Lit’s artistic director, Terry McCabe, is an Evanston resident.

Related stories

City makes arts bet on Howard Street

Theater group seeks Howard Street space

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Wait a second

    Wasn't the Wine Bar on Howard also a city owned building?

    Just how much property does the city own on Howard? 

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *