More live music may be coming to Evanston. Mark Weber and Lawrence Kearns from Wheeler Kearns Architects proposed a plan for a new music hall on Davis Street that was unanimously approved by the Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee on July 13.
The Committee, which hears applications for zoning relief, listened as Mr. Kearns presented the plans and the layouts for Grace, a 500-seat music hall at 1026 Davis St, the present site of Tom Thumb Hobby and Crafts. He added that the purpose of the project was to establish a “high caliber listening environment.”
“A lot of what we struggled with on these initial designs is the fact that we want to have every single person within 50 feet of the performer,” said Mr. Kearns. “So that this will be a very intimate environment … performers would be attracted to this venue because of its uniqueness.”
In a phone interview David Colker, Evanston resident and owner of Grace, told the RoundTable that this is a large project with “a handful of steps” involved. He said he was not comfortable talking in detail about the project at this time. He did confirm, however, that he holds an option to purchase the Davis Street property.
Despite repeated efforts, the RoundTable was unable to contact the owners of Tom Thumb.
Their application for zoning relief requests a 3-foot increase in the maximum building height, from 42 feet to 45 feet. Mr. Kearns also asked that they be allowed to build to the rear lot line rather than follow the requirement of a 15 foot setback from the property line.
The music hall would be set back from Davis Street, Mr. Weber said, adding that a ground-floor restaurant would likely take up much of the Davis Street storefront.
While the proposed height is 45 feet, Mr. Kearns said that the portion of the building fronting on Davis Street would be only 34 feet high.
“The idea with these projects is that you don’t want to kill the street life,” said Mr. Kearns, regarding how the project would impact the appearance of Davis Street. A second-story deck would open out above the street. “Even on the upper level, the idea is to animate Davis Street and keep it active, even when there is not a performance,” he said.
Mr. Colker said that the plan is to bring a wide range of music to the theater, and added that downtown was a logical place for a theater.
When Committee Chair Walter Hallen asked about accessibility for patrons, Mr. Weber said that the proposed music hall currently has four spaces for patrons in wheel chairs. Mr. Kearns later added, “We’ll continue to improve and refine as we do all aspects of the design.”
The feedback was positive from the Committee, and members unanimously approved the proposal. Mr. Hallen said that it’s an exciting proposal, and liked how they handled Davis Street.
Dennis Marino of the City’s zoning division said the Zoning Board of Appeals was scheduled to hear the proposal last night (July 19). Once the ZBA completes its consideration, it will make a recommendation to the Planning and Development Committee of City Council, which will then make a recommendation to the full Council.