Three entertainment superstars are now the owners of a slice of Chicago history.
Quincy Jones, Jennifer Hudson and Chance the Rapper were announced Wednesday as being at the helm of the soon-to-reopen and newly renovated Ramova Theatre in Bridgeport.
The trio are co-owners of the venue, along with developer/investor Tyler Nevius, who bought the property and the adjacent vacant lot from the city in 2017 for $1.
The renovated Ramova will boast a 1,500-seat live music venue and beer garden and grill in partnership with New York-based Other Half Brewing. The opening date has not been announced beyond “fall 2023.” But Nevius, in an interview with the Sun-Times late Wednesday, said the opening should occur around the end of the year.
Nevius would not discuss the extent of the celebrities’ investments in the project, saying he regards every contributor to the Ramova as important. He emphasized that “more than 40 folks from the community” have provided funding.
A city ordinance passed in 2022 said the Ramova project would cost $38.37 million, sharply higher than the $22.9 million budgeted in 2019. The ordinance promised the project a $9.1 million subsidy from tax-increment financing, representing property taxes collected from the area near 35th and Halsted. That was up from a prior commitment of $6.64 million.
“My mother always taught us to take care of home first, so to support the rehabilitation of this extraordinary theater with such a rich history in Chicago means more to me than one could imagine,” Hudson said.
Shuttered for nearly 40 years, the site at 3520 S. Halsted St., opened in 1929 as an ornate, single-screen movie theater. It closed in 1985 but was spared demolition after the neighborhood rallied to save the iconic structure. The efforts also resulted in the theater earning a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021.
“I believe the cultural divides in our communities will always be bridged and uplifted by music and the arts,” Jones said. “With Ramova, I see a future where the rich cultural heritage of Chicago shines even brighter alongside the country’s most talented artists, which will inspire future generations to come and bring glory to America’s Second City.”
The Ramova will also offer educational programs and workshops “and amplify community initiatives from local nonprofits.”
Peter Falkner, a familiar name on the Chicago music scene as the general manager of Thalia Hall, House of Blues and the Empty Bottle, has been named director of operations for the Ramova.
“Chicago will always be part of who I am,” Chance said. “I joined the team at Ramova to give back to the city that’s given me so much and to provide a stage to showcase the incredible talent Chicago has to offer.”
Contributing: David Roeder