Evanston has lost out on a bid to get $50,000 in federal funds to study the feasibility of converting the former Varsity Theatre downtown to a performing arts space because a city staffer put the wrong identification number on the grant request.

Evanston has lost out on a bid to get $50,000 in federal funds to study the feasibility of converting the former Varsity Theatre downtown to a performing arts space because a city staffer put the wrong identification number on the grant request.

The Varsity Theatre building.

The Evanston RoundTable reports that City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz revealed the screwup in an e-mail message to aldermen Friday.

The city passed an initial review of its grant request by the National Endowment for the Arts earlier this spring, Bobkiewicz said, but was asked to submit more information for the final review. But when the NEA received the additional data with a wrong identification number for the city, it disqualified Evanston for the grant.

Bobkiewicz says he plans to work to set up a single ID number for the city for all federal grants — and get future grant applications in at least a few days before the deadline to make sure there’s time to correct any similar mistakes in the future.

The movie theater, at 1706-1710 Sherman Ave., closed in the 1980s and its first floor space, including the auditorium, has been converted to retail space that now houses The Gap and Design Within Reach.

But arts advocates hope the balcony area and other upstairs spaces could be given new life as theatrical and music venues.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

5 Comments

  1. the Varsity

    That’s too bad but the potential to do it will remain.

    As one who attended many movies at the Varsity (and Valencia and Coronet) I think it would be neat to have a "Varsity Theater Ghost Tour" since I assume the remains of the theater are behind the renovations that were put in place for the Gap store – is the balcony still there, the screen? SPOOKY!

    I’d pay, oh, $10 (the price of a movie) to see it. Anyone else? The money could go to the Evanston Historical Society.

  2. While they are at it—

    Maybe also have a spiritualist come in and give a phantom tour of the theater where the Rotary is now and the theaters on Central.

    When will people learn that somethings are torn-down or replaced for a reason instead of wasting the public [whether from local, state or federal taxes] taxes on memories they don’t want to part with.  Come into the 21st century or at least out of the 18th.

    1. Memories

      Yup. 

      "When will people learn that somethings are torn-down or replaced for a reason"

      We replace memories of those old buildings with empty storefronts, foreclosed new developments, empty lots and storefronts used as display cases.

      Progress!

       

    2. The thing about the 21st century is…

      Evanston’s current track record with respect to new commercial construction is pretty poor, and was poor even before the recession. Other than the Maple theatre complex, many – if not most – tenants that occupy new buildings are simply relocating, leaving Evanston with no net gain in building up the downtown area.

      Borders and Barnes and Noble are two good examples. While I’m a fan of Andy’s Custard and Sprint/Clear, they’re hardly the post-B&N tenant Evanston was hoping for in the old Barnes & Noble site. The old Borders site remains empty, as do almost all the neighboring properties.

      That’s just based on tenants. The finances are probably worse, given all the incentives we offer to new development.

      It might behoove us to invest in new tenants to fill all the vacancies.

  3. Wrong Number?

    Let me get this straight. We put the wrong number on the form, and rather than call and ask for clarification or a correction, the NEA disqualifies Evanston. Hmmm. While I understand the importance of accurately submitting applications, I’m concerned if the NEA is disqualifying worthwhile projects to uphold some standard of accuracy that they themselves probably don’t achieve internally. This is pretty disappointing news to be thrown out on what appears to be such a minor technicality.

     

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.