Aldermen advance plan for Howard Street Theater

Julia Jacobs, City Editor

Aldermen on Monday directed the city to seek an architect to develop an initial drawing for the Howard Street Theater, a long-discussed Evanston project.

In a 7-2 vote, City Council approved spending a maximum of $40,000 on designing the framework for the building, which is intended to be a flexible space for at least one theater group to use for rehearsal and performances.

“We feel that this is the very first step to culminating the actual establishment of the theater,” Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said.

The city opened applications for theater groups to claim the space in May and established a focus group which has interviewed potential companies, a couple of which Rainey said she believes are strong candidates.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) told The Daily he voted against the action because it seemed like a premature expenditure to make before the city approves a group with which to move forward on design plans.

The proposed theater, at 717-723 Howard St., will be developed in partnership with a performance group that has the financial capacity to assist in raising additional funding for the renovations and new construction.

The city plans for the 10,000-square-foot performing arts center to fit up to 150 people and generate extra revenue from selling food and drink outside the auditorium.

Judy Kemp, an Evanston resident and former chair of the Evanston Community Foundation, said she supported the incoming theater as a way to spur economic development in the Howard Street area.

“This is particularly important in an area like Howard Street that has both the need and the potential to thrive,” Kemp said.

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