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New plan takes shape for city art spaces

The Piven Theatre would take on an expanded role at the Noyes arts center and the Evanston Art Center would move to new quarters if plans being developed by city officials are fully realized.

The Piven Theatre would take on an expanded role at the Noyes arts center and the Evanston Art Center would move to new quarters if plans being developed by city officials are fully realized.

Evanston's Human Services Committee Monday night gave City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz approval to continue talks with all parties involved in the plan, which Bobkiewicz hopes will cut capital costs for the city while strengthening local arts programs.

Norah Diedrich, executive director of the art center now headquartered in the lakefront Hadley Clarke mansion, said the center has hired a consultant and is working with city staff to find new space in Evanston.

"We're happy to be working with the city on this," Diedrich said, adding that the center's board "is aligned with a move out of Harley Clark and the Noyes Center to a new home that fits our needs and the community's needs much better."

Top: The Noyes Cultural Arts Center. Above: The Hadley Clarke mansion. (File photos.)

She said she hopes to have a firm proposal for a new location ready by late this spring.

Bobkiewicz said the 40-year-old Piven Theatre Workshop has approached the city with plans to expand its space at Noyes and consolidate it into the south third of the building.

In return for a long-term lease, Piven is proposing to invest over $2.5 million in capital improvements to the building, Bobkiewicz added.

The city manager said he's also been meeting with other artists and arts organizations that lease space from the city in Noyes and that he believes a tenants association can be formed that would help generate revenue to address capital and maintenance needs in the rest of the building.

Bobkiewicz said that by moving city staff now housed at Noyes to the Civic Center and having the EAC vacate space it now leases at Noyes, there would be sufficient room in the building to accommodate all the other tenants — including the expanded space for Piven.

He said he also plans to move forward with developing plans to lease or sell the Harley Clarke mansion, while subdividing the property to allow for continued public access to the lakefront and other public spaces in the area around the mansion.

Bobkiewicz said he expects be prepared by the end of April to ask the City Council to approve soliciting bids for other uses of the mansion that could start as soon as next year.

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