The proprietor of an Evanston music studio is weighing his options after the city’s Land Use Commission tabled a decision on a variance he said he needs for his studio to stay open.
The delay, issued at the commission’s Jan. 12 meeting, came after the Design and Project Review Committee had recommended against the variance.
Jim Tullio, owner of Butcher Boy School of Music Production, 1224 Washington St., wants the city to issue a variance allowing him to subdivide and sell a resulting adjacent lot. The matter will next be heard at the Land Use Commission’s Feb. 23 meeting. Fourteen people spoke on the school’s behalf Jan. 12.
When Tullio’s music production business decreased thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, he ushered it through a major pivot. His studio became a nonprofit organization helping high school-age musicians learn facets of music production and make their own recordings. Working with two socially distanced students at a time, Tullio has so far compiled about 64 tracks with the students.
“That’s the equivalent of maybe six albums,” Tullio, who has won two Grammys and over 100 Clio awards, told Evanston RoundTable. “Imagine a pop band trying to do that – six albums in two years. It just doesn’t get done.”
An increase in the studio’s mortgage payments has made the prospect of staying put untenable without the subdivision, Tullio said. But the parcel he wants to sell would be less than the 5,000 square-foot minimum area required for lots in the R-3 residential zone.
“I know people blame COVID for everything, but in this case, it’s my mortgage increase that is the problem,” Tullio said.
The Design and Project Review Committee primarily objected to the 4,226 square-foot size of the proposed lot created by the variance. Tullio said he was surprised by the rejection, adding, “There are hundreds of lots under 5,000 square feet in Evanston. It’s not like this one would be a ‘sore thumb.’”
He had considered making the new lot created for the building 4,226 square feet, and the lot to be sold 5,000 square feet, but he said he had been advised that plan would have required four variances rather than the one required for his current plan. He credited city Planner Katie Ashbaugh with helping him to navigate the city’s approval process at various points.
The building itself – a former butcher shop, hence the school’s name – is replete with historical significance. Tullio, who moved there in 2006, said that he had been told that the back of the building incorporates a barn that was the oldest building in Evanston. He makes his home on its top floor and is eager to see his program continue.
“This is the only program [for high school students] of its kind in the country,” Tullio said. “…These kids are amazing.”
He will be spending the weeks ahead trying to craft a solution, he added. “I’m open to any plan.”
Sounds like a perfect place for an affordable home to be built! Evanston needs to show its flexibility.
This is a big mistake by DAPR. Tullio and his studio provide a service to young would-be-artists that the high school, at this point, is unable to. Help him stay in his building, help him stay in Evanston and grant the variance he needs, for heaven’s sake. Let’s keep unique services and creators in Evanston!
It seems absurd the Land Use Commission would prefer to have a potential eye-sore of a vacant lot to stand instead of a tax-producing residence for want of a few hundred square feet. Grant the variance.
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