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February 24, 2018

YOUR OPINION MATTERS. TO SUBMIT A COMMENT, FILL OUT THE FORM AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE!


Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Community forum entry by: Scott Goodman,Farpoint Development Zeb McLaurin, McLaurin Development Tim Evans, Northlight

New Performing Arts Center

In 2012, the Downtown Evanston Performing Arts Study was commissioned by the City of Evanston and the National Endowment for the Arts. The final report identified 24 sites for consideration, one of which included the Varsity Theatre and Bookman’s Alley, which is now part of the proposed site for a multi-use development with a theatre on Sherman Avenue.
The report concluded “This district is already an established and recognizable commercial pedestrian district… proximate to abundant parking and transit. Introducing performing arts uses here would reinforce an existing pattern of public activity in the heart of the City.”
The study estimated a new Performing Arts Center would cost $50 million and require significant public resources to develop. A city subsidy at this level was unlikely to be approved.
The developers have clearly stated that we are not seeking any financial assistance from the City. In addition, the developer’s willingness to absorb the project’s risk would offset significant costs to Northlight. We have publicly acknowledged on multiple occasions our commitment to meet or exceed the City’s Affordable Housing requirements on site, to build a LEED Certified project, and to infuse day and night activity on this vitally important section of Downtown Evanston.
The proposed project creates an economic engine that benefits all of Evanston – bringing around 300 patrons to the theater each day who will explore, dine, shop, and spend in Evanston. We estimate the project’s full impact to the City in the first five years to be $56 million in new spending, $16 million in new wages, $10 million in new city sales tax revenues, $7.5 million in new real estate taxes, $5.5 million in new hotel taxes, and 340 new full time-equivalent jobs, and one-time building permit fees of $1.75 million.
Since 2013 we have explored many options, including Benson Avenue, a creative combination of Benson and Sherman Avenue sites, and the current mid-block proposal on Sherman Ave. We strongly believe the current site is the best option to accomplish the shared goals for the project:
• attract arts programming and new patrons to downtown Evanston
• be an economic catalyst for existing and future Evanston businesses
• add to the Evanston tax base
• require no public subsidy to the developer
We have participated in dozens of community meetings, formal and informal, and produced multiple potential building configurations in response to community input.
We’ve worked to address concerns about fitting into the existing streetscape, reworking the facade to consider Sherman Avenue’s copper, patina, brick, and limestone elements while acknowledging the site’s history. Previous public meetings revealed many opinions regarding the proposed project height, and we welcome continued dialogue on this issue.
Contrary to previous statements, we met with the retailers to better understand their businesses. We’ll have further conversations with those retailers and the 20 current office tenants to explore creative ways they can be more successful in downtown Evanston. The City currently has 90,000 square feet of vacant commercial space downtown.
We feel our development approach has been mischaracterized based on false information and maligned before a full and fair hearing through the customary planning process. We look forward to working with the Evanston community to develop a project we’ll all be proud of for generations.



Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Community forum entry by: Julie Chernoff

Supports Northlight Theatre

I’m writing in strong and heartfelt support of Northlight Theatre’s return to Evanston. As an Evanston resident of nearly 30 years, I’ve seen our beloved city go through many changes, that have been, to my mind, pretty much uniformly positive – Evanston regularly shows up on lists of “Best Places to Live in America,” so we must be doing something right.
As a past member of the District 65 School Board, Evanston Community Foundation, and Past President of the Woman’s Club of Evanston, I am acutely aware of where the need is in our community, and where our strengths lie. As a current board member of Northlight Theatre, I understand the strong motivation to return to our roots in Evanston.
My husband, Josh, and I are empty nesters now, but are currently building a house in Southeast Evanston with the intention of staying here as long as we can. Why? Because in Evanston, we have access to the gorgeous Lake Michigan lakefront, fantastic public schools, a thriving city with fabulous restaurants and a strong commitment to nonprofits in general, and the arts community specifically.
I see the return of Northlight to Evanston, our original home, as a huge economic boon to Downtown Evanston, in terms of increasing the tax base, and most importantly, attracting more people to our fair city. Northlight has been bringing in 50,000 ticket holders into Skokie for many years that translates to incredible support for nearby restaurants and businesses, especially when everything is within walking distance.
Northlight has been creating and presenting exciting theatrical productions for 40 years. We are known not only for what we do onstage, but what we do off it as well, creating educational programs and opportunities for students in our surrounding communities, with a real focus on Evanston.
Imagine the synergy of having Northlight right downtown, walking distance for Northwestern University students, and a short ride for our District 65 and Evanston Township High School students.
I am a regular patron of all of the retail stores that are worried about what future downtown expansion may bring. I shop in those stores because of what they sell, the people who own them, and because I believe strongly in buying locally whenever possible. But I, like most Evanstonians, would continue to patronize these establishments no matter where they were located in Evanston.
I was unable to be at last week’s meeting because I had theatre tickets downtown to see “The Humans” at Broadway in Chicago (although I hear the meeting itself was quite a show, and not one that reflected well on the participants).
We grabbed a bite before the play, and met friends for a drink afterward at a different venue. All the restaurants near the theater were packed with patrons headed to the show.
Now multiply that potential spent by 50,000 – or even 25,000 – and you have an idea of the monetary impact Northlight could have on our downtown.



Posted: Sunday, February 18, 2018
Community forum entry by: Clif Brown

I suggest to those at all locations that fly American flags in the city: keep them at half staff until our Congress passes legislation on the control of guns. Whether it is for a week, a month, a year or more, we should show in this symbolic way, and as a daily reminder, that our country is in danger our people threatened by a problem that cannot be ignored. The NY Times has just published an article relating, in powerful graphics, information that of all aspects of the gun crime problem examined by researchers worldwide, there is only one factor that stands out strongly implicated: the number of guns. America has 5% of the population of the world, but 45% of the guns. Old Glory should not return to the top of the staff until we are moving on a solution.


Posted: Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Community forum entry by: Pamela Ferdinand

Opposes Northlight Development. Council members: As someone who grew up on the North Shore and returned here 10 years ago, one of the joys of Evanston always has been the small businesses of my childhood (The Mexican Shop, Vintage Vinyl, etc.) and those that cropped up more recently and are thriving.
My family and I moved back here from Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., whose own small businesses have disappeared one by one, to be replaced by banks and chain stores. The character of that university town – so similar to Evanston in many ways – was soon washed away, and it lost both its charm along with its diverse mix of residents. By the time we left, many of the wonderful businesses that were pushed out for the sake of “development” had become empty storefronts with excessively high rents. Or, they were banks, with teller machines and vacant space that create no sense of vitality or activity on the street. Harvard Square became a shell of what it once was.
To replace an iconic stretch of Evanston – once home to the Varsity Theater (which many would love revived) – for the sake of a high-rise luxury tower is obscene. While we would all love to find a home for Northlight, it does not need to go hand-in-hand with a development that represents everything Evanston is not and that threatens the survival of thriving independent businesses such as our beloved Bookends & Beginnings. We are not a downtown where luxury prevails, where big business dominates (and we could talk about Target another time), where tall towers cast shadows on pedestrians below or where wonderful retailers who are the heart of our daily lives are pushed out so that we can look like every other city. So we become like every other city.
To approve this plan is short-term, unimaginative thinking that threatens to destroy the fabric and identity of a downtown that continues to stand apart. I, for one, will not go down quietly if you dare to close Bookends & Beginnings, the best book store for miles around and one that has defied industry odds.
I strongly urge you to oppose this development and encourage the creation of a new, appropriate site for the Northlight that respects small businesses, our heritage, and the hearts of Evanstonians who love our city as a dynamic and diverse urban gem.



Posted: Thursday, February 1, 2018
Community forum entry by: Joan Muller

We were thrilled to learn that Representative Jan Schakowsky has joined the Climate Solutions Caucus! This bipartisan group, consisting of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, is now up to 68 members. In joining this group, Representative Schakowsky, long a strong advocate for the environment, has demonstrated her resolve in addressing climate change, one of the most crucial issues of our time. She has joined the Caucus with Representative Fred Upton (R MI-06), chairman of the Energy subcommittee in the House.

The majority of Caucus members represent coastal states that have been most severely impacted by climate change. But climate change is a shared national and global problem, and Schakowsky and Upton recognize that we need to join together to find solutions. We at Citizens' Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan, volunteer-driven organization focused on national climate policy solutions, hope that such bipartisan legislation will be fair to those who have done the least to create the problem, that is, the poor and underprivileged.

We applaud Representatives Schakowsky and Upton for stepping outside the current highly partisan environment to address this most critical issue. If this truly bipartisan caucus can actually work together to pass effective legislation, just think what a positive message that would send to our nation.

Joan Muller and Laura Winston, Citizens' Climate Lobby Evanston Chapter co-leaders



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