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Wrong number derails Varsity grant bid

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.

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