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The former BooCoo Center will re-emerge this summer as the Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center, offering programming presented by the City of Evanston’s Parks and Recreation Division in conjunction with a number of partners. The City purchased the building earlier this year after BooCoo closed its door in 2014.
The City’s head of Parks, Joe McRae, announced the City’s plans at the City Council meeting on Feb. 9, while presenting the formal naming resolution. City staff is currently working to make repairs and upgrades to the facility, Mr. McRae reported, saying that any lights on in the building were a sign that work was being done.
Plans include a possible private event space, an internet cafe and programming similar to that offered by BooCoo in previous years, such as music classes. The McGaw YMCA, the Evanston Public Library, the two School Districts and Shorefront have agreed to partner with the City in offering programming as well, said Mr. McRae. “We won’t do this alone,” he said.
The City plans to issue a Letter of Intent shortly, seeking an operator for the kitchen facility.
The Gibbs-Morrison name comes from the proprietors of local businesses that once operated on the corner of Dodge and Church. William “Doc” Morrison ran a drug store at the location for years, and the initial proposal included the Morrison name only.
But in meetings with the community announcing the name, said Fifth Ward Alderman Delores Holmes, a resident asked, “Well, what about Gibbs?” Thomas Gibbs operated a Sinclair gas station on the site as well, she said. “We didn’t have all the information” when proposing the Morrison name only, she said.
The City proposed an amendment changing the name to Gibbs-Morrison before the matter even made it to Committee. Mr. McRae proposed “GMC” as an abbreviation.
Not everyone embraced the new GMC wholeheartedly. “It would seem to me that in that location there is a real need for some kind of retail,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. “It’s a real surprise that we’re going to repeat right there exactly what failed.” The former BooCoo offered similar programming to that proposed by the City, but went out of business.
When the City purchased the building, continued Ald. Rainey, “I thought we’d put it on the market.” If a public entity was going to buy the building for programming purposes, she said, “it should have been District 202,” across the street.
“We can’t afford as a community to have that corner stand empty,” responded Ald. Holmes. “It is my hope that [after the GMC opens] someone will see it thriving and come in and buy it.” The property had been on the open market from the time BooCoo vacated until the City purchased it. Apparently, no private purchaser could be found.
Monday’s vote concerned naming the building only, not budgeting or programming. “I think the naming is a fabulous thing,” said Ald. Rainey. When it comes time to allocate money toward the project, additional votes will be needed.
The City anticipates a “grand re-opening in June,” said Mr. McRae.