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Chicago Park District Breaks Ground on New Year-Round Theater

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Superintendent Michael P. Kelly, Alderman Michele Smith, and members of the Lincoln Park and theater communities today broke ground on the new Theater on the Lake year-round cultural facility, located at Fullerton Avenue and Lake Shore Drive.

“Theater on the Lake is a community treasure that has entertained Chicago residents and visitors during the summer months for more than six decades,” Mayor Emanuel said. “This new venue will provide access to Chicago’s rich cultural scene at a fraction of the cost all year long.”

The building, just steps from Lake Michigan, will undergo a $6 million facelift to be funded by Lakefront Hospitality Group. The Group’s proposal to remodel, renovate and operate the one-of-a-kind entertainment and cultural venue was in response to a concession Notice of Availability that was advertised in December of 2015.  

Theater on the Lake’s new redesign will preserve the historical aesthetics of the loft-like structure, while incorporating modern elements to transform it into a multi-use, year-round venue.  The structure will be divided into three sections: a new 330-seat main theater with new lighting, sound system, green rooms and dressing rooms, two-adjacent event spaces with access to a lakefront terrace, and a public restaurant furnished with a kitchen and a semicircular outdoor patio with a breathtaking vista of the city skyline.

“Improvements to Theater on the Lake will dramatically heighten the amazing production quality of this unique performance space and expand our capacity to offer professional world-class theatre, as part of the yearlong Night Out in the Park initiative, to our patrons from a year-round location,” said Chicago Park District Superintendent and CEO Michael P. Kelly. “The building’s new amenities allow us to accommodate patrons who just want to relax, while catering to guests celebrating a special occasion or enjoying a casual dining experience along the lake.”

The project is part of the Mayor’s commitment to elevate and expand cultural assets and reinvigorate arts programming in Chicago’s neighborhoods, as called for in the Chicago Cultural Plan; as well as his Building on Burnham vision of maintaining public access to green spaces along the lakefront for the purpose of promoting recreation and leisure activities. 

The renovations come on the heels of the completion of the Fullerton Revetment project earlier this year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' shoreline protection project at Fullerton Avenue Beach added approximately 5.8 acres of park space to the area neighboring the Theater on the Lake building.

Renovations are expected to be complete in summer 2017.