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University Of Chicago, Artist Theaster Gates Building Theater In Washington Park

Garfield Boulevard Green Line 'L'' Station, part of the site of an arts incubator being proposed by the University of Chicago and artist Theaster Gates

The University of Chicago is moving forward with plans to revitalize Washington Park with a new group of arts buildings. U of C, along with noted artist Theaster Gates, will begin construction of a black-box theater this summer, DNAInfo reports.

The buildings at 323 East Garfield Blvd. and 317 East Garfield Blvd. are part of a group of arts-related developments including a new arts center, a park with new landscaping and a $50M renovation of the Garfield Boulevard Green Line 'L'' Station. Construction of the new theater is being kick-started by a $2M matching grant from the Efroymson Family Fund. The university will raise the other $2M through private donors.

The project is a pivot after the Obama Presidential Center decided to build in Washington Park instead of Jackson Park. U of C's winning bid for the Obama Library included sites in both areas, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel sweetened the deal with a promise to turn over 20 acres of Chicago Park District property if the university won the bid. The Obama Foundation's choice of Jackson Park for the site took many observers by surprise. U of C spent $18M over six years to acquire 26 properties totaling 10 acres near Martin Luther King Drive and Garfield Boulevard.

Gates has led arts-based adaptive reuse projects in South Shore and Woodlawn through his Rebuild Foundation. The university held meetings in April seeking community input for the arts block proposal.