Northlight Theatre officials today announced that they’ve signed an option agreement to purchase a building in downtown Evanston at 1012-1016 Church St.

“We are actively fundraising and developing plans to purchase the building by the end of the year,” said a spokesperson for the theater company.

The plan is to “build a new theatre on this site that will be transformational for Northlight and will enhance downtown Evanston.”

“Our new theatre will be a stand-alone, two-to-three story building that does not involve a developer,” Cathy Taylor, the spokesperson, said.

She added that Northilight will continue to operate in its current location at the North Shore Center in Skokie at minimum through the end of the 2020-21 season.

County Recorder of Deeds records indicate the current owner of the property, New York-based Fairway Evanston LLC, acquired the building in a foreclosure sale in 2009.

Northlight, which has an annual budget of roughly $3.5 million, has launched a $20 million fundraising campaign for the new project.

1012-1016 Church St. (Google Maps)

The existing building on the front of the site houses the Evanston Rocks music hall and the related Rock N Ravioli and Bourbon N Brass venues along with the vacant restaurant space formerly occupied by Thai Sookdee.

Reportedly Amy Morton’s The Barn restaurant will continue to operate at its current location at the rear of the site.

In 2017 Northlight proposed to build a new theater on Sherman Avenue downtown at the base of what would have been a 395-foot tall hotel and rental apartment tower, but withdrew those plans last year in the face of community opposition.

Northlight got its start in Evanston in 1974, initially performing at the then-empty Kingsley Elementary School, and later was housed for four years in the since-demolished Coronet Theater on Chicago Avenue before relocating to Skokie in 1997.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. availavility vs parking

    It’s wonderful to think Northlight might return to Evanston.  However, current patrons will certainly miss the easy and free parking at their Skokie site.  Will driving patrons be accomodated in a reasonable way?

    1. Parking for Northlight

      It’s less than 1000 feet from the planned site of the new theater to the city’s Maple Avenue garage.

      That’s not a whole lot more than the hike from the theater entrance to the parking garage at Northlight in Skokie.

      Parking is never actually free. The only question is whether it’s included in the ticket price.

      — Bill

  2. Love it – make it happen Evanston!

    I really hope this happens. Evanston doesn’t need more retail, but a live theater would be a welcome add in bringing outsiders to Evanston to then use our shops and restaurants. The location is perfect in that it’s not in the midst of a ton of foot traffic, but is still very close to downtown and the trains. Much much preferred to a 30+ story building. The rendering looks nice too in my opinion and would be a great cultural addition to the city. Great idea Amy Morton! Obviously, would be good reciprocity with a nice steakhouse and theater combination. As someone who lives nearby, I think it’d be a great addition to the community and would bring more vibrancy to that area. The bourbon and brass location seems to never do all that well — the building is dark and patrons just don’t seem to frequent whatever they put in that location. And now that Thai Sookdee shut down, the opportunity is ripe for the picking! I really hope Evanston alderman/officials/whoever decides the fate sees the benefit of a stand alone theater. I personally would go a bunch and would love the opportunity to see shows nearby.

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