University discusses plans for arts-focused development projects in Washington Park

The University of Chicago presented plans for a new arts center and a public pavilion to residents of Washington Park at a community meeting hosted by 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell at the Arts Incubator on April 6.

Theaster Gates, professor of visual arts and director of Arts + Public Life at UChicago, said a currently vacant brick and terra cotta building adjacent to the Arts Incubator in the 300 block of East Garfield Boulevard would be renovated to become the Green Line Arts Center, a new hub for music, dance, theater and film production. A vacant lot at 335-355 E. Garfield Blvd. would be transformed into public green space that would house an open-air pavilion structure. The projects are dependent on donor support.

“These new spaces would continue efforts to transform the block into an arts and culture corridor where local artists and community members can gather to both practice and enjoy art,” Gates said, noting that the new arts center would be twice the size of the Arts Incubator, which opened in 2013.

Dowell noted that the site proposed for the public pavilion is owned by the city of Chicago and that the University would sign a redevelopment agreement outlining the public benefits of the project as part of the process of purchasing the land from the city. The University already owns the land that would house the Green Line Arts Center.

William Towns, assistant vice president for neighborhood initiatives in the Office of Civic Engagement, highlighted UChicago initiatives in education, health, capacity-building, business development and community hiring that currently benefit mid-South Side neighborhoods. He also noted that efforts on Garfield Boulevard have been “a partnership between the University and community.”

The University held three public meetings in 2014 to discuss visions for the corridor and gather community input. Separate calls for artists to design furniture for the outdoor pavilion and architects to propose design concepts for the arts center were held in 2015. Design proposals that could ultimately contribute to the vision for the Green Line Arts Center were on view at the Arts Incubator from September 2015 through January 2016.

The University hopes to begin construction for the two projects later this year.