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Northlight buys property for new theater site

After a pandemic-caused delay, Northlight Theatre has acquired the property it plans to make its new home in downtown Evanston.

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A rendering of the proposed design for the new Northlight Theatre building on Church Street in Evanston.

Northlight Theatre today announced the purchase of property at 1012-16 Church Street in downtown Evanston planned to be the theater’s new location.

“This is a breakthrough moment in the 45-year history of Northlight. We have long sought a home of our own and the acquisition of the Church Street property allows Northlight to pursue its bold vision of building a world-class theatre complex in downtown Evanston, the vibrant and diverse community where we began,” says Executive Director Timothy J. Evans.

“This future theater, education and community complex will be a major component in the arts and cultural scene in Chicagoland and the North Shore, and will for decades bring artists, audiences, students, and community members together to experience compassionate and compelling art, entertainment, and theater education.”

The theater group announced plans in May 2019 to purchase the property, but fundraising for the project was delayed by the Coronavirus pandemic that largely shuttered performing arts organizations.

The 21,400-square-foot property will house the site of a three-story 38,000-square-foot state-of-the-art theater and community complex incorporating a 300-seat main stage theater, rehearsal hall, community lobby, a glass-cubed rooftop “sky room” and roof deck for use as a daytime education center and nighttime event space, several lobby lounges and concession areas, theater support spaces, on-site box office and offices for Northlight staff.

Artistic Director B.J. Jones said, “I read a definition of ‘home’ once that said it was ‘a happy place where one can live, laugh, and learn; somewhere where you are loved, respected, and cared for.’ I’d like to think that Northlight will find in its return to Evanston just that—a place where we can share, through our development of new work, a common conversation and a safe space. A home, where we find love, respect, and care.”

Evans says Northlight hopes to open the new theater complex by the fall of 2024.

The total project budget is still in development due to fluctuating post-pandemic building costs, but it is estimated to be between $20 to $25 million, to be paid through a combination of private philanthropy and other sources. The project is currently moving through overlapping planning/design programs, fundraising and construction phases.

Northlight received city approval of its planned development for the Church Street site. The property at 1012-16 Church Street was purchased from Fairway Evanston LLC by Northlight Theatre, paid for through individual donor sources without bank or other institutional financing.

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