Noyes Center / Piven Plan - Concerns, May 6 meeting needs residents


My name is Julie Phelan; my husband and I live at Sherman and Noyes. Since December we've been following the Noyes Cultural Arts Center space planning and proposed Piven expansion. In addition to our childrens' amazing Arts Camps being relocated/cancelled we are concerned about the Center's artist community being gutted and a revenue-making building regressing to become dependent on City funds. The more we learn, the more questions are raised about why the Mayor and City Manager find this proposal so attractive (-- among them, if over $2.2 million is at stake why not include this in larger City arts planning, such as that surrounding the Harley-Clarke mansion and a downtown theatre district? Why is the City so concerned over losing property tax income at Kendall and other sites but willing to forfeit millions in rent revenue to help this single arts organization?)

I'm writing to ask you to consider coming to the Civic Center THIS MONDAY May 6 for the Human Services Committee meeting to learn more (-- evening, generally 7:30 but check on Monday please). This will most likely pass as proposed -- unless we neighbors and residents show our concern by showing up in large numbers and asking questions.

I appreciate your taking the time to read this; I hope to meet you Monday! Please forward this as you wish and please let me know if I can answer any questions.

Julie Phelan

Detailed concerns:

  •  Why change the mission of a successful artistic community and, more  importantly, take something that could make a profit and force it to lose millions of dollars? Noyes has a proven draw for artist tenants  and is capable of making a profit; it could fund its own maintenance and bring significant money to the  City. The alternate profitable/self-sustaining plan proposed has not been given thorough study.
  •  We wish Piven the best and value their history here... but we question supporting an arts organization that appears unable to support itself, in a deficit for many years - and my conversations with residents indicate that keeping Piven here is not as important to Evanstonians as perhaps our leaders believe.
  •  Why would Piven, with one of the lowest numbers of annual professional performances (about 27 last year) of the City's theater groups, need almost 3x their current space and a $3 million plus theater? Is it true they can rent it to other organizations and keep the profit?
  •  How will such a commitment of City money to a single arts organization - $2.2 million dollar loan plus rent relief in the millions- affect funds for other arts planning and organizations in the City, such as the City Lit project in the 8th ward (which was turned down for half a million less), downtown theater areas, Evanstarts - or the Harley-Clarke Mansion and Evanston Arts Center?
  • Why is the City citing concern about losing tax income at the Kendall college site but willing to sacrifice millions for a single arts organization?



Huge thanks to all who turned out for the interesting May 6 Human Services Committee meeting regarding the current Noyes-Piven proposal. We are sure the full turnout demonstrated for the Alderman the concern that exists.

The discussion continues this MONDAY, JUNE 3 (7:30 pm), Civic Center.

If you are interested please consider a brief email to the Aldermen, Mayor and City Manager. Some outstanding questions are:

  • Talmadge Park: What's the plan for Talmadge Park and expanded parking?
  • Sustainability: How, long-term, will Noyes Center be funded if Piven is given rent forgiveness? Couldn't Noyes end up like Harley-Clarke mansion?
  • Cash flow: Why does Piven, a training center with very limited productions, need a  $3 million theater, other than for cash flow on rentals? Is it fair to allow a single organization to keep rent from a City property?

Thank you.

Julie Phelan, neighbor