U. of C. presents updated plans for Arts Block in Washington Park

Staff Writer

University of Chicago (U. of C.) officials recently presented updated plans and asked for feedback from the community for the next phase of the proposed development of the Arts Block in Washington Park.

The updates were mentioned at a meeting hosted by Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) on Wednesday, April 19, at Greater Harvest Missionary Baptist Church, 5141 S. State St.

Last year, U. of C. announced plans to develop a major arts and culture corridor along East Garfield Boulevard from South Prairie Avenue to South Martin Luther King Drive.

The plan builds upon the university’s already existing Arts Incubator (301 E. Garfield Blvd.) and Place Lab, Currency Exchange Café (305 E. Garfield Blvd.) and BING Reading Room (307 E. Garfield Blvd).

Next steps for the process include building the Green Line Arts beginning with the renovation of 6,600 square feet of vacant storefronts located at 323-329 E. Garfield Blvd., east of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Green line tracks.

The Green Line Arts Center will include a black box theatre, rehearsal space, green room, dressing room, and lobby for gathering and exhibition.

“I believe in the power of art, U. of C. Professor in the Department of Visual Arts and the director of Arts + Public Life Theaster Gates said in a written statement. “The Art Block Lawn and Green Line Arts Center will attract local artists and cultural organizations, neighborhood residents, and arts patrons from across the city—creating an enhanced Arts Block and drivers of increased cultural and economic activity in the Washington Park neighborhood.”

The university is also planning to convert a vacant lot west of South Martin Luther King Drive into the Arts Block Lawn, a public green space and pavilion for the community to gather and enjoy free performances, workshops, and other activities. U. of C. is looking to purchase the vacant lot which is made up of four parcels of land from the City of Chicago.

The Arts Block and Green Line Arts Center characterize the next level of the redevelopment of Garfield Boulevard that began with the Arts Incubator in 2013.

“Over the past three years, members of the Washington Park community have provided input to help create an arts and culture corridor and realize the great potential of East Garfield Boulevard,” Dowell said in a written statement. “The resulting new cultural and retail activity benefits both the neighborhood and the University of Chicago.”

Also, the university has submitted a proposal to lease the CTA’s vacant historic station on Garfield Boulevard, which could be the site for a new welcome center and incubation space. The CTA has not yet awarded the lease.

Construction is slated to begin in late summer.