Curious land tenure arrangement at Glencoe

photo detail of a former theater building on Belmont, by Terence Faircloth via flickr (cc)

As reported yesterday by Chris Jones of the Tribune, Writers’ Theater is planning a new $30 million home on the site of the Glencoe Women’s Library Club.  Being ignorant of things theatrical, I find the interesting part of Jones’ article to be

The building would rise on the Tudor Court site of the Glencoe Woman’s Library Club, which, unusually, would continue to own the land after its building was demolished. Writers’ Theatre would be granted a 99-year lease, with a rent of $1 a year.

Construction of buildings on leased land isn’t all that uncommon, and 99 years is a typical term. But at a rent of $1/year, this obviously isn’t an investment decision.  And as (presumably) a nonprofit association, neither the Club’s members nor their heirs can expect to benefit from an increase in the selling price of land by the year 2111.  The now-unborn who will be members of the club at that time might benefit, but it’s hard to imagine current members thinking that way.

So there must be something else involved.  Perhaps the Theater will be obligated to provide some space to the club, or perhaps the land title is encumbered so that it cannot be donated. Probably if we had all the information we’d find some implications for elaborate income tax trusts of some kind that were advantageous to someone in the past. Hopefully someone will come up with more information.

Jones also notes that the location is “not far from the Metra/Union Pacific train tracks,” which implies that theatergoers could ride Metra to and from performances.  Perhaps, if they’re lucky as to where they live and when the show ends, but the Metra service is sparse and nighttime connecting bus service essentially nil in the north suburbs. Patrons who dine in any restaurant or bar before or after the show will have the opportunity, however, to pay some of the costs of providing the uncoordinated, inconvenient service.