The Daily Northwestern

City Council revokes Noyes tenants’ relocation notices

The Evanston Children's Choir practices at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St. The City Council revoked relocation notices to the choir and arts center tenant Maggie Weiss on Monday.

Jia You/Daily Senior Staffer

The Evanston Children's Choir practices at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St. The City Council revoked relocation notices to the choir and arts center tenant Maggie Weiss on Monday.

Sophia Bollag, Copy Chief

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Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl announced Monday night that the city will not relocate two tenants in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, changing course from an earlier decision that raised controversy this month.

The City Council revoked relocation notices to the Evanston Children’s Choir and textile artist Maggie Weiss, which were issued last week to accommodate a proposed expansion of the Piven Theatre Workshop at the arts center, 927 Noyes St.

“While I am supportive of this opportunity for Piven to expand its operations at Noyes, I am concerned about the final process that brings this agreement to a conclusion,” Tisdahl said in a news release. “It appears that not all existing tenants at Noyes can be accommodated under the Piven plan.”

At an Evanston Arts Council meeting last week, tenants facing relocation and their supporters strongly criticized the proposal.

Gary Geiger, director of the Children’s Choir, said Tuesday he was pleased the council took the tenants’ concerns into account after the meeting.

“I was grateful that our voices were heard,” Geiger said.

Piven drafted the controversial proposal, which would expand the theater to two levels and more than double its square footage within the arts center. The proposal stipulates Piven would pay for the theater’s expansion as well as improvements to the aging building, in return for having negligible rent — $1 annually — for the next 25 years. 

In an interview with The Daily in February, Leslie Brown, Piven’s executive director, said the theater would put $3.5 million into the building and take out a $2.2 million loan from the city.

Brown said the city’s decision to revoke the tenants’ relocation notices does not change the theater’s plan to move forward with the proposal.

“Piven will still go in front of the Human Services Committee on May 6 and officially submit the proposal for the aldermen’s consideration,” she wrote in an email. “Nothing has changed on that front.”

Geiger said he still plans to speak at the meeting next month, just as he had planned to do after receiving his relocation notice. However, he said his message at the meeting will no longer be one of protest, but rather one of thanks to the aldermen for reconsidering their decision to evict the Children’s Choir and move Weiss from her current studio to the basement of the building.

Despite the tenants’ relief, they believe the center still needs repairs and investment.

“Things are going in the right direction,” Geiger said of the idea that Piven will still spearhead the renovation project. “I agree that the building needs capital investment. Everyone agrees with that.”

However, he added that he does not think renovations to the building need to involve the displacement of tenants.

“If anyone is forced out, it leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth,” he said. “You want a place where everyone feels welcome.”

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About the Writer
Sophia Bollag, In Focus Editor

Sophia is the former editor in chief of The Daily Northwestern. She currently serves as In Focus editor, leading The Daily's investigations desk. Her past...