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Museum project on the ropes

1817 Church St.

Plans to establish a black history museum at 1817 Church St. in Evanston appear near collapse.

1817 Church St.

1817 Church St., in a photo taken about the time the city handed the building over to the non-profit group.

In May 2001 the city gave the building at that address to a non-profit group that promised to open a Black American Heritage House and Technological Resource Center at the site within nine months.

Over six years later city officials now are moving to seize the former pool hall from the Evanston Westside Citizens District Council, Inc. saying the group has never opened the facility.

Some work was done on the building this summer, but the project apparently remains incomplete.

When the city gave the building to the non-profit group, it made the group sign a quit-claim deed that would convey the property back to the city. The parties agreed the city could record the deed if the group failed to open the museum within nine months, or allowed it to close for over 180 days at any time during the next 99 years.

The city's Housing & Community Development Act Committee, which includes four aldermen, voted Sept. 18 to recommend recovery of the building to the full City Council, after discussions with the non-profit group that have been underway at least since July.

At the request of Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, the City Council Monday voted to postpone action on the recovery plan for two weeks to permit last-minute efforts to salvage the project.

Documents indicate the city acquired the building for $175,000 and agreed to spend over $200,000 in Community Development Block Grant Funds to help the group rehabilitate the structure. Officials did not indicate Monday how much of the CDBG funds have been spent and no representatives of the non-profit group, headed by Bettye Palmer, addressed the council.

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