Decision on future of Hull House Theater could come at end of June

June 12, 2013

By: Katie Kather

Photo courtesy of Richard Nickel Archive, Ryerson and Burnham Archives. © The Art Institute of Chicago
The historic Hull House Theater in Uptown. Preservationists, local businesses, theater groups and artists with Chicago ties are trying to prevent the building from being converted to apartments.

A decision on the future of The Hull House Theater in Uptown could come at the end of the month.

Owner Dave Gassman, who bought the building last month, requested a zoning change that would allow the historic theater to be converted to a two-story apartment complex.

The change was scheduled for a vote in a city council committee meeting Tuesday.

Members of the committee led by Ald. Danny Solis (25th) pushed the vote to the end of the month after hearing testimony from the Consortium to Save Hull House Theater.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th), whose ward includes Uptown, says there is a proper community process to approving zoning changes. He scolded members of the group for their lack of involvement in that process.

He told them their efforts were “a day late and dollar short.”

Nick Rabkin is part of the consortium made up of representatives from Preservation Chicago, local businesses, theater groups and artists with Chicago ties. He says he commends Cappleman for his process but wasn’t aware of it.

“I didn’t hear about his process and in fact, Ilesa Duncan, who is the executive artistic director of the theater in the building, didn’t know about his process either,” he said.

The theater, opened in 1966, is considered by some to be a Chicago landmark.

But it shouldn’t be saved for its historic significance alone, said Deb Clapp, executive director of the League of Chicago Theaters and Uptown resident.

“The theater is one of the things that makes living in the 46th ward really pleasant and vibrant and important,” she said.

Members of the consortium have started an online petition and are counting on an application for landmark status to go through.

But Cappleman says they need to present a financial plan for the space and show an effort to work something out with the new owner by the next Committee on Zoning, Landmark, and Building Standards meeting on June 25.

Katie Kather is an arts & culture reporting intern at WBEZ. Follow her @ktkather.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Hull House Theater could close at the end of the month. Theater officials have confirmed that they have a lease through November. 

 

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