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2/22/24 Important Update: MYAC is moving forward with submitting their plan to Highwood's Planning & Zoning committee to rezone a portion of Fort Sheridan from Residential to PUD. The zoning change will allow MYAC to move forward with building a concert venue in Fort Sheridan, a national historic landmark. 

The date for MYAC to present to the Planning & Zoning meeting will be shared once it is confirmed. Get involved and tell our elected officials we want to preserve our national historic landmark and keep commercial development out of our neighborhoods.

Protect
the
Fort

Grassroots Effort by Highwood and Highland Park Residents to
Protect Fort Sheridan from the MYAC's Proposed Entertainment Venue Plan

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ABOUT Our Mission

Protect the Fort is a grassroots community organization. Our mission is to stand up against a zoning change that will allow construction of an undesirable and unwanted Entertainment Venue in Fort Sheridan's historic residential neighborhood. The MYAC (Midwest Young Artists Conservatory) is aggressively pushing a massive construction plan to build a 750 person, nearly 7-story tall concert venue in Fort Sheridan. The plan includes a huge surface parking lot holding nearly 250 cars in our neighborhood. Fort Sheridan is a National Historic Landmark, and Protect the Fort's goal is to protect this landmark, and the interests of those that live in and around the Fort from a self-serving, high-risk development project that could forever alter the fabric of our community.

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About
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MYAC Proposed Plan

Concerts, social events, galas, fundraisers, weddings, rock concerts, and more!

The MYAC plan is hard to follow as it seems to change on a daily basis to conform to their audience. Things we do know:

  • Venue Purpose - They say its for kids concerts, but they also say on their website "lobby large enough to accommodate multiple functions, such as galas, dinners and social gatherings." Well, what is it, kids concerts or galas? Reality, intentions always change when revenue starts to run dry. It is highly likely this will someday host a wide variety of functions including weddings, rock concerts and more.

  • Capacity - 750 person capacity (we don't think this includes 100+ orchestra). No clarity on why it must be this large for children's concerts.

  • Parking Lot - A massive 235-250 car parking lot in Fort Sheridan. Their plan also calls for using the Metra parking lot and busing concert goers into the Fort. Hundreds of more cars AND buses clogging the streets and polluting the neighborhood. From the MYAC renderings it's hard to appreciate the size of a 250 car parking lot. Click here to see a real world example of a parking lot similar to the one they're proposing.

  • Zoning - Currently, the property is zoned for single family (can fit 15 homes) which is logical because it's in a residential neighborhood (great tax revenue for Highwood). Their plan is to change it to PUD so they can build whatever they want which won't generate tax revenue for Highwood.

  • Street Closure - they will be closing the current access road behind the MYA. All the Westover rental property traffic will flow one way thru Westover Road to Lyster.

  • Building Height - Their current design was presented to Pralls residents in October 2021 as a nearly 7 story tall building. They now say it'll be 10 feet shorter but they're still showing the same exact building design. They're saying things without demonstrating architectural design changes.

  • Justification - The MYA says they need this facility to accommodate their large ensembles and occasional concerts. The reality is we're surrounded by large venues capable of hosting the MYA. Highland Park H.S., Deerfield H.S., Gorton Community Center, Stevenson H.S., Writers Theater, North Shore Center for Performing Arts, Martin Theater at Ravinia, etc... Do we really need another entertainment venue in our backyard

  • Noise - They say neighbors won't hear the concerts because of the acoustic design. What about the 100s of cars every day and night coming and going in the parking lot from 8 AM until 10 PM? What about buses going back and forth from the Metra station to the MYA? What about when the venue starts hosting weddings, galas, rock and hip hop concerts, and drunk attendees are roaming Fort Sheridan or drinking and driving? 

Proposed Plan
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thinking about the future

What Happens if the Project Fails?

If a restaurant or bar goes out of business, it's pretty easy to find a new tenant to occupy the vacant property.

 

What does it look like when a large scale venue closes down? What does the property look like in 5 to 10 years if the MYAC shuts its doors, doesn't maintain its property, or can't afford to run its concert venue? You don't have to look far. Check out the Lifestyle Residences - a failed development sitting vacant for years, and now in bankruptcy court. 

Why is a project that doesn't generate any tax revenue back to the city worth the risk to our historic neighborhood? Why is the city considering building commercial businesses in residential neighborhoods? 

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Future

Why we oppose it

Tax revenue

The venue's proposed site is zoned single family. The site can accommodate up to 15 homes which would generate significant annual tax revenue back to Highwood. This tax revenue supports our public works, schools, library, police and infrastructure. Changing the zoning and allowing a non-profit to build an entertainment venue will generate minimal, if any, tax revenue to Highwood. How does this project make financial sense for our city and residents?

Residential

Fort Sheridan is a quiet and historic residential neighborhood. Residents move to the Fort for its beauty, serenity, and quiet. A 750 person entertainment venue will alter the fabric of our peaceful residential neighborhood, bringing in hundreds if not thousands of weekly visitors into our backyards all day and lasting up to 10:00 at night.

Property Values

Construction for a project of this size could take 1 to 3 years and will directly impact property sales throughout the mayhem. What happens in the future when the MYAC owners retire, or funding collapses? What happens to property values in our neighborhood with a vacant and decaying niche venue space? Business intentions always change with revenue challenges. What happens if a Live Nation or Jam Productions takes over the venue? What happens to property values with rock and hip hop concerts in our backyard?

traffic

The MYAC owners made it clear they'd like to fill this 750 person venue nightly, if possible. This will add hundreds if not thousands of new visitors and cars on a weekly basis to Highwood's already congested roads. Sheridan Road is a two lane road with no room for expansion. There are additional high density development plans for downtown Highwood and near the lake shore potentially bringing hundreds of more residents and cars. How can our streets handle an entertainment venue, along with all the other in progress developments?

Conflict of interest

There is a serious conflict of interest between the city and this project that is bordering unethical behavior. A key proponent and driver of this project is a MYAC board member who happens to be a Highwood alderman who owns a distillery/bar in downtown Highwood. Is our city council really willing to build large scale concert venues, instead of single family homes, in a residential neighborhood to support their personal interests?

Inexperience

The MYAC is non-profit music education facility run by a married couple in their 70s. They have no experience running a large scale entertainment and concert venue. They admitted to neighbors on Pralls Loop during an October meeting that they're currently struggling to keep up with their existing business. For years they've failed to maintain their property, fielding frequent complaints for not cutting their grass, not shoveling, leaving old furniture on their front porch and lawn, and letting countless trees die on their watch. No one trusts the MYAC owners will suddenly transform into responsible  property owners.

Why We Oppose

Our Goal

The property the MYAC purchased is zoned for single family residential. The lot is large enough to accommodate up to 15 single family homes. Sticking to the original plan for this land, and developing residential homes, will generate significant tax revenue to Highwood. This tax revenue is critical to support Highwood's public works, infrastructure needs, city workers, police officers, an award winning library, schools and more.

It's illogical to rezone one of the few remaining vacant properties in Highwood from residential to PUD for the purpose of building a risky, non-profit concert venue that will generate little to no tax revenue back to Highwood. Tell the owners of MYAC to build their concert venue in their own backyard...in Evanston!

Keep the land zoned as single family and develop it for its original purpose.

Our Goal

Join the Fight

Subscribe

It's critical that we all keep a vigilant eye on this project as it goes in front of Highwood's zoning committee. We need to attend public hearings and make our voices heard.

Sign our petition asking Alderman Falberg to recuse himself from any discussions and votes related to the MYAC and zoning matters: Sign Petition Here

 

Subscribe to Protect the Fort for the following:

  • Keep you up to date on meetings and public hearings

  • Provide you a list of MYAC board members and donors, contact info, and a template email to send to them with your concerns

  • Provide status updates on our progress and any changes in plans

Join Protect the Fort and get involved to stand up against the zoning change and  MYAC's Entertainment Venue.

Thank you for subscribing to Protect the Fort!

Contact the Highwood and Highland Park City Councils and let them know how you feel about this project. You can download a sample email that you can customize for sending to the City Council members - Click to Download.

Highwood Officials

Highland Park Officials

Contact the owners and founders of the MYAC:

City Officials
Contact
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