Demolition work was underway today on the former carpet store buildings at 1911-17 Church St. that billionaire Jennifer Pritzker plans to turn into the site for a youth learning center called Project Beacon.

The building has been vacant for a decade or more after being acquired by entities controlled by developer Daniel Cheifetz.

In 2006 Cheifetz unveiled plans for a retail and office complex on the site, but that project never got off the ground.

Pritzker’s Project Beacon LLC acquired the buildings and two vacant lots to the east from Cheifetz in September for a total of $422,500, according to county property records.

A Pritzker spokesman has said the new structure planned for the site across from Evanston Township High School will serve as “a modern learning center that will encourage local students to explore different creative outlets and activities to express themselves while improving their skills and talents.”

Pritzker is an Evanston resident and her Tawani Enterprises has been involved in redeveloping a number of properties in Evanston and in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Project Beacon & Beacon Academy

    J. Pritzker might want to come up with another name for the learning center planned for Church and Dodge.

    Beacon Academy, a Montessori high school is opening downtown Evanston.  The first day of classes is August 25, 2015.   This has been public knowledge for at least a year.   Beacon Academy will be located at 622 Davis St.

    While this may be just an oversight that anyone can make, it might also suggest a lack of attention to what's going on in the larger community.   It also indicates a lack of due diligence about something as important as a name.  

    Hopefully Pritker will reconsider the Church St. project's name, so there will be no confusion about two new educational institutions named "Beacon". 

    1. Multiple beacons

      Hi Debbie,

      I'm advised by a member of the city's economic development staff that Project Beacon first got its name in 2012, before Beacon Academy decided to locate in Evanston.

      I'm also told that the Pritzker team, while they haven't changed the legal name of the entity that owns the property, is now using "Evanston Compass" as its working name for the project to avoid confusion.

      Given that we've got a lighthouse, Beacon is a popular name for things in Evanston. There once was even a newspaper here by that name.

      — Bill

      1. Multiple Beacons — better public processes?

        Thanks to Paul Zalmezak (City of Evanston Economic Planner) for providing the background behind the various entities using the name "Beacon".   And thanks to you, Bill, for reminding us of the former newspaper named Beacon. To me, this all adds up to an over-use of the word and symbol, as well as  lack of imagination and an unproductive nostalgia.

        Of greater concern (to me) is that this tiny incident — indicating non-communication on multiple fronts as well as a disregard of an over-busy citizenry's limited capacity for information — is a microcosm of our disfunctional community communications and public process.   It is a real-life example of how things fall through the cracks in our crumbling public infrastructure.

        The good news is that there are people all over the country and the world who are working on new, more participatory public processes that are based on current realities, that are fun, and that move us closer to a real democracy (as compared to a representative "democracy", which is an oxymoron).

        For people who are interested in developing new skills to create better public processes in Evanston (especially around communications and information), the Evanston Public Library has just announced a new initiative:  Citizens for Public Innovation through Community Information Gathering.    

        According to the library's announcement, the training is based on a model developed by Harwood Institute for Public Innovation (based in Maryland).   Harwood's model makes a clear distinction between operating "inwardly" and privately (our current social model) vs. operating "outwardly" and inclusively.  

        I have been trying to develop similar "outward" processes in my food-and-farm work.  I welcome this opportunity to expand my learning, along with other Evanston residents.

        — Debbie Hillman

    2. Ah, perhaps

      … the montessori people should pay attention to "what's going on in the larger community.   It also indicates a lack of due diligence about something as important as a name."

  2. Project Beacon Tax Status?

    Will this "modern learning center" pay property taxes?

    I guess that might also apply to the Beacon Academy Montessori high school, too. 

    If a not-for-profit leases space in a commercial property, is there a tax-saving to the property owner? 

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