The Jan. 28 Council meeting was dominated by the arts, with the presentation of a Performing Arts Study (see story on page 1), new leases at theNoyesCulturalArtsCenter, and continued discussion of the proposedHoward Streettheater. Other, less glamorous, items passed over the Council dais as well, such as garbage disposal fees and efforts to control panhandling. 

Since 1992, the City has been a part of a 25-member regional cooperative created to share the costs of solid waste disposal. The cooperative, the Solid Waste Agency orNorthernCookCounty, or SWANCC, charges members annual fees for capital, operations and maintenance and disposal costs. The price tag this year: $83,300 for capital, an even $1 million for operations and maintenance, and $40,000 in recycling transfer fees. All items were precisely budgeted during the budget season. Council approved these costs without debate. 

The City also voted to hire a consultant to conduct a transit-oriented development study for theMainand Chicago Metra and CTA district, a move that dovetails with the newly created TIF in the same area. Parsons Brinckerhoff, the same consultant that completed the Yellow Line study last year, will conduct the study at a cost of $125,000. Most of the funding – $100,000 – comes from a grant given by the RTA. 

Dennis Marino, the City’s manager of the Planning and Zoning Division, said the focus of the study will be to connect the CTA and Metra stations atMain Streetand to stimulate new private development in the area. He also said the CTA tends to look to such studies when deciding upon capital projects, and the City hopes for an upgraded Purple Line station as a result. 

“The possibility of a new CTA station is worth the whole thing,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. 

TheNoyesCulturalArtsCenter, which was targeted for potential closure or sale in 2011, appears to be sticking around for a while. Council approved new leases at Noyes – 15 or so for under two years, but four for extended periods, including two for 10-year terms (Evanston Children’s Choir and Actors Gymnasium). The short-term leases passed without debate; the longer leases require two readings and were just introduced with the expectation that they will pass next meeting. 

City staff brought an ordinance limiting panhandling to the Administration and Public Works Committee for introduction, but the measure was introduced only with the proviso that it would return to the Committee for further debate. At issue are Constitutional protections of free speech pitted against efforts to make door-to-door panhandling illegal during certain hours. Ald. Rainey proposed daylight hours as the limit, suggesting 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. City staff agreed to research limits and return to the committee with answers shortly. 

The Howard Streettheater project (see Jan.17 RoundTable) returned to the Committee as an item for discussion only. City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said, “This remains a key, important project” in the eyes of City Staff, and he said he brought it back to keep it “on the radar screen.” He said he shared Council’s concern about funding, but the challenge “is not insurmountable.” 

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said, “I do feel strongly that we should move forward. … I don’t think we should get off the horse in the middle of the stream.” 

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, reminded the committee that the cost of the project had exploded from an estimated $600,000 to $1.65 million. 

Other projects, including those contemplated by the Performing Arts Study and the Chicago and Main TIF, influenced the discussion. Alderman Ann Rainey, the theater’s greatest champion, pointed to both during the Council meeting in urging Council to fund the project. When explaining her vote for the TIF directly to Third Ward Alderman Melissa Wynne, she said, “I ask you to reconsider your vote against my theater,” and “whatever is good forChicagoandMainis good forHoward Street.” 

Apparently FEW Spirits,Evanston’s only distillery, continues to thrive. Council voted to introduce an ordinance allowing an increase in the maximum quantity of alcohol produced under FEW’s license from 15,000 gallons to 30,000 gallons with a bump up to “35,000 gallons annually in subsequent years.” Congratulations to FEW. 

The Starbucks onSherman Avenuewill be moving about 50 yards north, from 1726 to 1734Sherman. The new space will be roughly twice the size of the former space. While Starbucks is not currently seeking a liquor license, the staff memo notes that they may “direct this location to serve beer and wine in the future as some regional Starbucks locations do.” 

The Carroll Properties project at Emerson passed over the “no” votes of Ald. Wynne and Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st ward. The passage and vote was not unexpected. Ald. Rainey tried to eliminate a promised $150,000 contribution from the developer to the City for traffic signal or other traffic management improvements. She argued that the City should wait until it decided to upgrade the traffic measures before negotiating a payment rather than sticking with the 2006 agreement for $150,000. She found no support for this position on Council, and the agreed to contribution remains in the final ordinance. 

Finally, at call of the wards, Ald. Wynne announced that groundbreaking for Trader Joe’s will be at 1 p.m. on Feb. 1, which is probably just when this paper is being delivered. The demolition is complete; let the construction begin.