City seeks funding vehicle for downtown theater

A rendering of the proposed Northlight Theatre development on Sherman Avenue.

Evanston's Economic Development Committee will be asked Wednesday to approve plans to explore creation of a new government entity to fund the proposed Northlight Theatre development downtown.

In a memo to the committee, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz notes that a single-purpose unit of local government called the Centre East Metropolitan Exposition, Auditorium and Office Building Authority was created to develop Northlight's existing home in Skokie.

Under its enabling legislation, that authority only has the power to issue bonds to be repaid from the center's operation.

But some of the more than 50 other civic center authorities created in the state also have the power to impose property taxes, subject to referendum approval.

Bobkiewicz says Northlight and Farpoint Development, LLC, which has proposed a 395-foot tall hotel and residential tower to adjoin the proposed theater in the 1700 block of Sherman Avenue, asked for city assistance in exploring the funding mechanism for the building and also for help in financing a public parking garage as part of the development.

He says the developers have not asked for other financial help from the city, such as the use of tax increment financing.

A 1996 Chicago Tribune article on opening of the Skokie facility says it received a $10 million dollar grant from the state that was conditioned on creation of the special-purpose government authority to oversee it. The Village of Skokie also contributed $3 million to the project and ended up controlling six of the nine seats on the authority's board, with Niles Township controlling the rest.

The Skokie property is managed by Rhode Island-based Professional Facilities Management.

The EDC meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Civic Center.

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Comments

No taxes, no public debt or oblgation

If they want to build it, have them get a bank loan backed only by revenue. No property taxes, no city backed bonds.
This city involvement in every hair-brained project [esp. theaters] has to stop !

proposed theater

The proposed site is already occupied by many charming and uniique stores. Surely there are other sites in Evanston which might suit Northlight without destroying a downtown block that caters to successful small businesses. The proposed height of this building is also troublesome. If this support for tall buildings continues among our Planning and Development Committee members , Evanstonians will find that their strolls downtown are sterile; that their future trips to Sherman Avenue will mean walking in the shadow of buildings that not only block all sunlight, but create wind tunnels. Yes, close the city wallet!

I agree with emm

No public dollars and no new government agency. Developer training 101 is to profit from spending someone else's money. The Farpoint proposal is a classic case of attempting to do just that.

Another Failure in the Making

As if the money dump, the theater on Howard, wasn't enough, the purposed theater on Sherman will end up being a burden on taxpayers and be even a bigger failure. No city dollars for this. No city risk for this. City council needs to be honest and adult and start being the representatives of all of Evanston, not just elitists friends.

Yes to a Downtown Theatre -No to City Funding

I support Northlight on Sherman. It is a central location accessible by public transportation, and bring much needed evening traffic to local restaurants. The early estimates were to bring 500 jobs to Evanston.  Given the retail environment, it’s unlikely, in my opinion, that the shops in question will be in business in ten years regardless of this development. Look at the history of retail on that street. However, I cannot support a dime of public funds for this project. That’s what banks, Foundations and fund raising is for.

Sherman Ave project

No! The businesses impacted by this project are too important to the city. Find another place.

Respectfully disagree

Just have to disagree, Frances. I’ll make a pledge to meet you here in January, 2028 to see if any of those business on Sherman are still there. Doesn’t mean that they don’t serve customers or add value now, but retail is just not a sustainable economic platform.

Why so many arts theater but one movie theater ?

With arts groups coming out of the walls and wanting their own theater [public financed of course], is Evanston only able to have one movie theater ? It is a large theater but why only one in Evanston. Evanston use to have at least three--four if you count the ones on Central as different. Two downtown and one on Chicago Ave. south of Main. [Two downtown closed in the 70s and 80s respectively though the Varsity tried a revival. The one on Chicago Ave. basically closed in the late 70s. When the Century was to open, the two on Central wanted to stay but the Century got access to movies that blocked them out. Why then do all the arts groups think they need or can support multiple locations. Maybe all of them [and Arts Center] should join and move to one big building---that the owners and subscribers finance. Of course all the arts theaters turn a blind eye to all the activity at NU---they all want to have their OWN theater. This is both ego and hubris---and we well know what those lead to.