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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Residents should be concerned about this deal

    Why would lake front access be denied to residents if the Mansion was sold?    Wally was not clear is he going to be selling any of our lake front property in the sell of the mansion.  The Mansion sitting on the foot print of the building is not worth much.  Maybe 1 million dollars maybe a little more – if it has no land – but add in any lake front property the value is much greater 4 – 5 million dollars – so whats Wally up to?

    It is unclear – we do not want a public beach destoryed –  so what is Wally up to?

    Council members need to be clear on what he is doing before they give him authority to sell anything.  Also by the way why would the art center want to move and not just pay a fair rent not the current dollar they pay now is Wally going to give them any economic development funds? 

  2. Response

    Wally's not up to anything. The lakefront will remain in tact and the public will have access. The building needs extensive renovation and it doesn't serve the needs of the art center. It's that simple. Why is there conspiracy in everything in Evanston? 

    1. Why?

      Because Evanston is broke and in serious fiscal trouble.

      Therefore, any and all initiatives forwarded by this City Council, our mayor, whomever, must be scrutinized to the point of conspiracy.

      Simply, the City Council does not have a good trackrecord for fiscal responsibility, focus & prioritization of issues and general decision making.

      MORE arts and cultural initiatives?  Not what we need.

      MORE for-profit businesses and economic development?  WHAT WE NEED.

      I rest my case.

      Evanston is broke.

      1. Yes, arts and cultural initiatives=economic development

        I hear that the city needs more for-profit businesses and economic development.  What you fail to understand is that arts and cultural initiatives help serve economic development.  Steppenwolf moved into a dying business district at North and Clybourn, and what happened?  Economic growth because crowds of people came to the area.  What happened when Goodman moved to the loop?  Economic growth.  What happened when Old Town School of Folk Music moved into Lincoln Square?  Again, lots and lots of growth. New restaurants, the movie theatre was revived, new businesses popped up and survived.  Old businesses that were struggling saw growth.  They were just so darn successful that Old Town is opening a second building across the street!

        It seems that the idea of funding arts and cultural initiatives might just, indeed, have some merit.  Thousands of people visit the Evanston Art Center each year from morning to evening.  Can you imagine what would happen if that same not-for-profit business resided in downtown Evanston?  Yes.  More people coming to classes, and then going out to support the local businesses by parking, shopping, eating, drinking coffee, etc.  More customers coming to an area – more chance for a new business to have actual customers coming to their store!  These initiatives all work hand-in-hand.  And there has been significant success with similar arts and cultural initiatives all over the country in places like Asheville, NC, Long Beach, CA, Providence, RI – all similar cities to Evanston. 

        Maybe there is a "conspiracy" theory after all.  Maybe it's actually to create some positive growth in Evanston. 

    2. Who are you to claim the lakefront will remain intact?

      Maybe you know more than I heard at council – it appears to me there is going to be land added to the manison to sell it – that is what I heard – also it sound as if lake front property would some how be added, since you seem to know more tell us what land they are adding?

  3. Use of Noyes Cultural Arts Center

    it's been said that city manager Wally Bobkiewicz is trying to sell Noyes Cultural Arts Center to a private investor, additionally the decisions to fund theater companies that are already in arrears is a BAD decision.

    As a preforming artist myself, I believe that funding should not come from a (non solvent) city, but from patrons and grants. It's unfortunate that most of the residents of NCAC do not contribute to the community in any meaningful way; offering an occasional minor class or workshop, their particapation is at most limited.

    Some residents, who are paying below market cost for rent, do not contribute at all! One of the only valuable assets to the community at NCAC are the camps which are reasonably priced, educational, and well run. Programs such as the Arts Camps should be further developed, and if anything (involving the arts) should be underwritten, it should be Arts Camps, which enrich children's (and systemically) familes lives in our community.

  4. The Hadley Clarke mansion

    Lets hope the Evanston Art Center doesn't have to move out of the The Hadley Clarke mansion on the shores of Lake Michigan. This is a beautiful historic public park area. Evanstonians should insist under no circumstances should this public building & public land be sold to a private entity, it should remain in the hands of the public.

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