The music school building at 1224 Washington St.

Six weeks ago, things were looking pretty grim for Jim Tullio.

Evanston’s Design and Planning Review Committee had voted 11-0 against zoning variances which Tullio said were needed to save his Butcher Boy School of Music.

Butcher Boy is a program where the Grammy-Award-winning producer teaches high school students the art and science of putting together songs and albums. For free.

Tullio then tweaked his proposal, and, in a musical sense, DAPR changed its tune as well, recommending approval.

But that was just a recommendation. Final say is from the Land Use Commission, which on Wednesday night gave Tullio the thumbs up he asked for.

Tullio had explained he needs to sell a vacant part of his property at Washington and Asbury, to pay the mortgage on the Butcher Boy building, which is on the other part of the land.

Without the mortgage money, Tullio said he’d lose the building, and the music production program with it.

Simple, right? Just sell what you can.

Nope.

From day one, the city’s concern had nothing to do with music and everything to do with land.

The city’s zoning code requires a 5,000 square foot parcel for a residential lot in that area. But at 9,226 feet, Tullio’s land is too small for 5,000 foot pieces times two. Non-compliant.

So there was a compromise. Cut the land exactly in half, 4,613 square feet each. Both under 5,000. But pretty close. And it saves the school.

The land use variances passed, 7-2.

One of the “no” votes, Jeanne Lindwall, said “I don’t think it’s a good idea. It creates a precedent that’s problematic,” to allow smaller lots than what’s in the code.

But panel chair Matt Rodgers pointed out that there are already other less-than-5,000-square-foot lots in the neighborhood.

Plus, he noted that a new house could be built on the vacant land which Tullio will sell.

“I’d much rather see it developed as a single family home” than having half of Tullio’s property sit vacant, Rodgers stated.

By the way, the school is called Butcher Boy because the building was once a butcher shop, and still has a “Butcher Boy” freezer left over from those days.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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2 Comments

  1. Jim Tullio is a pro, an incredible engineer and producer whose enterprise is a huge plus for the Evanston community. I am so glad people had the insight to help him maintain it. It will enhance tremendously Evanston’s image as a center for creativity in the Chicago area.

  2. I’m glad to see an amazing cultural program like this kept alive. Art and creativity are vital to our community! Also it’s a lovely and well-kept building.

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