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The land use commission is delaying the decision of the music studio

The owner of a music studio in Evanston is weighing his options after the city’s land use commission delivered a ruling on a derogation he needs to keep his studio open.

The commission’s delay, announced at its Jan. 12 meeting, came after the Design and Plan Review (DAPR) Committee recommended against the deviation.

Jim Tullio, owner of the Butcher Boy School of Music Production at 1224 Washington St., wants the city to enact a waiver that would allow him to subdivide and sell an adjacent lot. The matter will next be heard at the February 23 Land Use Commission meeting. Fourteen people spoke on behalf of the school on January 12.

As Tullio’s music production business declined thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, he ushered it in with a major inflection point. His studio became a non-profit organization that helped high school-aged musicians learn facets of music production and put together their own recordings. Tullio works with two socially distanced students at the same time and has put together about 64 tracks with the students to date.

Jim Tullio, left, works with ETHS student Alejandro Quiles at the Butcher Boy studio. (Image from Butcher Boy’s YouTube video.)

“That equates to maybe six albums,” Tullio, who has won two Grammys and over 100 Clio awards, told the Evanston RoundTable. “Imagine a pop band trying to do that – six albums in two years. It just won’t finish.”

An increase in the studio’s mortgage payments made the prospect of going without the subdivision untenable, Tullio said. But the lot he wants to sell would be smaller than the minimum 5,000 square foot area required for lots in residential zone R-3.

“I know people blame everything on COVID, but in this case my mortgage raise is the problem,” Tullio said.

DAPR primarily objected to the 4,226 square foot size of the proposed property created by the deviation. 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 is a ‘sore thumb’.”

He had considered making the new lot created for the building 4,226 square feet and the lot for sale 5,000 square feet, but he said he was advised the plan would have required four variances rather than those for his current plan required. He credited urban planner Katie Ashbaugh with helping him navigate the city’s permitting process at various points.

The building itself – a former butcher’s shop, hence the school’s name – is steeped in historical significance. Tullio, who moved there in 2006, said he was told the back of the building contains a barn, which is the oldest building in Evanston. He sets up his home on the top floor and looks forward to his program continuing.

“It’s the only program [for high school students] of its kind in the country,” Tullio said. “…These kids are amazing.”

He will spend the coming weeks trying to find a solution, he added. “I’m open to any plan.”

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