In a move that could eventually reshape the northern edge of Evanston’s downtown, Northwestern University Tuesday announced plans to move its music school from Elgin Road to a location near the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on the southern end of the lake fill campus.

Construction of the new 116,000 square-foot, five-story music building is estimated to cost $90 million, which will likely mean $1.3 million in building permit fee revenue for the city late in 2009, if construction begins as scheduled then.

But the move also throws into play the future of a section of the university campus bordering downtown that has changed little in nearly a century.

The main Music Administration Building at 711 Elgin Road was built in 1874 as a women’s dormitory. The music practice building nearby was completed in 1915 and the 400 seat Lutkin Hall performance space was completed in 1941 at 600 University Place.

University officials say they’ve not yet determined what the old buildings will be used for once the scheduled move of the music school into its new building in 2012.

But University President Henry Bienen was quoted in today’s Daily Northwestern as telling attendees at a campus ceremony Tuesday announcing the building plans that the Music Administration Building will see continued use. “It’s a great building and we’ll keep it,” Bienen reportedly said.

City officials are in the midst of a downtown planning process which includes proposals for expanding Oldberg Park across Elgin Road from the old music building by closing off Clark Street between Orrington and Sherman avenues.

The plans also envision a new gateway between downtown and the campus at Orrington and Elgin, just east of the old music school complex.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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