Chicago Children’s Theatre breaks ground

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A Chicago Children’s Theatre class in session.

Chicago Children’s Theatre, the city’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families, officially broke ground on Saturday, December 12th, on the company’s first-ever permanent home – an adaptive reuse of the former, 12th District Police Station at 100 S. Racine Avenue in Chicago’s West Loop.

At a morning groundbreaking ceremony, Chicago Children’s Theatre board members, staff, artists and supporters joined First Lady City of Chicago Amy Rule, Steve Koch, Deputy Mayor of the City of Chicago, Chicago 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr., Illinois State Senator, 5th District, Patricia Van Pelt, VIPs from the city’s live theater community, and representatives from community groups including the West Loop Community Association and the West Central Association.

With children wearing ceremonial hard hats and toy shovels in hand, the group celebrated the upcoming transformation of the long-shuttered police station at the southwest corner of Monroe and Racine in Chicago’s West Loop into a beautiful, mixed-use performing arts and education facility designed to serve all Chicago families.

Saturday’s event kicked off Phase One of construction, including a flexible, 149-seat studio theater that occupies the station’s former jail cell block. The studio theater will have flexible seating to accommodate professional shows, student performances and Red Kite interactive theater for students with autism. Phase One, which also includes a lobby, classrooms, support space and 30 parking spaces, is slated for completion next winter.

Phase Two, to be completed in 2020, includes construction of a second, state-of-the-art, 299-seat mainstage theater, designed so the company can serve larger audiences while providing more flexibility and control over production values and schedules. Phase Two also encompasses a dedicated box office, an interactive lobby, rehearsal and storage spaces, while maintaining the 30 parking places.

“After 10 years of staging our productions and educational programs at museums, theaters and other venues throughout the city and suburbs, our new home will provide CCT with a solid foundation to engage, inspire and serve all Chicagoland families,” said Chicago Children’s Theater Co-Founder and Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell. “We are finally graduating from an itinerant company to a theater with a permanent home, allowing us to better serve the children of Chicago, grow our education programming, provide a cultural anchor for this newly revitalized neighborhood and further establish our presence on a national scale.”

“As a new, centrally located gathering place for Chicago’s children to explore ideas and projects that bridge theater and education, the new Chicago Children’s Theatre will bring countless benefits to this city,” added Chicago Children’s Theatre Founder and Board Chair Todd Leland, Managing Director, Goldman Sachs International. “We will have new capacity to expand our theater programs and teacher workshops, grow our Red Kite Project into a year-round program for children on the autism spectrum, and add new programs for children with special needs.”

The former police station, built in 1948, believed to be designed by Paul Gerhardt, Jr., was purchased earlier this year from the City of Chicago for $1. The purchase was preceded by additional project funding in the form of a $5 million grant from the Illinois Department of Com- merce and Economic Opportunity. The total projected cost for purchase, renovation and new construc- tion for the new Chicago Children’s Theatre is approximately $15 million. That amount is part of a larger, $20 million institutional expansion campaign the company has launched titled “For Our Children, The Campaign for Chicago Children’s Theatre.”

Until Phase Two is completed, Chicago Children’s Theatre will continue to present its mainstage productions at its current performance home, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St. in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. For more information visit chi- cagochildrenstheatre.org.

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