It could be “up and out” for some groups at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center if a plan broached by Evanston’s city manager this week is adopted.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz suggested in a memo to the Human Services Committee that the arts center perhaps should become “an incubator of artists and arts organizations” rather than their “long term creative home.”

Citing the now-withdrawn proposal from long-term Noyes tenant Piven Theatre Workshop to dramatically expand its space at the center, Bobkiewicz said the debate over that became “at times a very ugly process.”

But, he added, it raised a lot of questions about the role Noyes should serve in the community.

He noted that Dance Center Evanston has managed to grow on its own and serve a lot of folks in the community from rented space in the Evanston Plaza shopping center.

“One of the challenges,” Bobkiewicz said, “is how big is too big for Noyes. At what point should Noyes become a launching pad with successful groups at some juncture finding their own space?”

And he suggested that perhaps rents should be lower for groups that are new to the center and rise as groups become more established.

Several of the groups now at Noyes have been there for two decades or more.

Bobkiewicz proposed that the city’s Arts Council and the Noyes tenants’ association develop a plan for addressing those issues and others regarding the center’s future and report back to the City Council by February.

Actors Gymnasium board member Sam Fishkin argued for more space for his growing group at Noyes.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, suggested that given mixed residential and commercial neighborhood around Noyes, “There’s a limit to the size of organizations that can be accommodated there.”

Downtown Evanston would be more appropriate for events drawing a larger performing arts audience, Tendam said, adding that he believed the larger groups at Noyes, including Actors Gymnasium and Next Theatre long term need to be thinking in that direction.

Meanwhile, some existing tenants, including Actors Gymnasium, are hoping to expand into spaces left vacant after some tenants moved out during the Piven expansion discussion.

Bobkiewicz said city staff would work with the tenant’s association to decide how to allocate that space among new and existing tenants on short-term leases while the long range goals for the building are sorted out.

But Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, suggested Actors Gym should not get the space it most wants.

Room 106, Holmes said, has long been used as a community space for groups that aren’t regular Noyes tenants — and preserving that space, she said is very important.

The city manager said he also plans to seek approval soon to hire a consultant to conduct a complete engineering study of what capital improvements may be needed at the center.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Problem properties

    Perhaps the City needs to put some of these  problem properties up for sale. Is the cost to maintain properties that they can only rent for alomst free  a good idea. Look at Howard Street properties. They are renting for free  unless current user buys and then taxpayers lose money since the buyer/user gets all money back

  2. Not a problem

    The Noyes Center is not a problem property. It is a thriving Arts Center with many activities serving the community.

  3. I’m confused

    I'm confused. If "capital improvements" are needed at the Noyes Center, why are artistic organizations that are eager to expand into vaccant space, (thus willing to pay more in rent), being asked to consider moving elsewhere?

  4. Actors Gym is an asset and should be treated as such

    Actors Gymnasium is affiliated with the park district. However, they also pay rent to the city for their space. The city is not actually losing any money with the actors gymanasium programs.  AG runs fund raisers to offer reduced programming to lower income children. They would like for the Noyes Street association to take over management of the spaces within the building, with the city acting only as a landlord.     Why does the city prohibit this?  The city could remain in partership with these tenants, offering tenant services through the park district and retaining ownership of the land. The tenants association could run the day-day operations and pay rent to the city who can manage the building.                                                                                                       AG is unlike any other theater in that it requires special rigging for it's equipment and gymnastics spring board floor.   AG staff do not want to move to another location.   The AG leaders are feeling bullied by the city, Mr. Bobkiewicz in particular, who has threatend that perhaps Noyes street isn't the right location for their venue.     Mark Tendam is my alderman, and he has not responded to my email about this issue.   Elizabeth Tisdahl reports that she was unaware of any issues with this building and supports Actors Gymnasium.  This leaves me wondering if she is unaware of what the other aldermen(Tendam) and Bobkiewicz are discussing as reported in this article in terms of pushing tenants to relocate, or just answering me in political-speak?                                                                                                                                                        Expanding the arts by bullying successful arts groups is hardly good leadership.  I hope that all our elected and unelected officials consider the way that they deal with the actors gymnasium staff. AG is a self-funded asset to our community, and should be treated with respect.  The directors of Actors Gym are world-renowed choreographers and teachers of the circus arts.  Evanston is very lucky to have their services and shows in our community. 

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