Friday, September 20, 2013

The Next Phase For 4520 Beacon Begins

Several neighbors have let us know that the razing of 4520 N Beacon is underway.

In the mid-1960s, Jane Addams Hull House Association acquired and tore down some derelict residential properties (see below) to build the Uptown Center.  It became home to many programs over the years, including a small business development center, After School Programs, Domestic Violence Counseling and Advocacy Programs, ESL Classes, and Head Start Preschool.  We, like many Uptowners, mourned its abrupt closure in January 2012, when Hull House declared bankruptcy and went out of business (some say due to over-reliance on government funding and not enough on private donors).

Before Hull House Association (CARLI Digital Collections)

The new building itself was never much-loved by the community; its architectural style was described as "Miesian/brutalist" and its appearance never quite fit in on an otherwise residential block.  Its Leo Lerner Theater was the home to Black Ensemble Theater for many years, and then to Pegasus Players for a couple years after their long residency in the Truman College theater.  (BET moved out and built themselves a better theater a couple blocks away, which opened in November 2011.)

The building was put up for sale by Hull House Association in November 2012 and was purchased for close to a million dollars by David Gassman for the purpose of returning it to use as residential property.  There was a movement to save the theater in Spring 2013, but there was no official interest in landmarking the building and not enough money was raised to buy it, so developer Gassman's plans to convert it to residential units remains intact.  The Reader has a nice article describing the efforts made to save the theater at the eleventh hour.

Pegasus Players, which called the theater home for the last couple years, and has a long and beloved history in Uptown, was reported by DNAinfo to be working out a deal with National Pastime Theater to partner with it in the Preston Bradley Center on Lawrence, in a recently rediscovered theater space.  We very much hope that happens, because we love Pegasus and have for decades.

The plans for the adaptive reuse at 4520 N Beacon mean keeping the building's footprint intact, and preserving the rear sunken garden, the parking lot next door and the front and side setbacks.  Eight feet will be added to the height of the building, bringing it from 30' to 38' tall.  It will contain 24 market-rate rental apartments.  You can see what the plans look like here, on a link from the 46th Ward's Zoning & Redevelopment Committee's webpage.

We look forward to seeing what the next incarnation of this property looks like.


  1. Does anyone know the fate of the big gorilla?

    I realize to some that may not be an important part of this process, but I have a little boy who's going to be very sad if it goes away..

    1. The current owner stated at our block club the the gorilla is being sent out to be cleaned and "restored", and will return upon completion.

    2. Huzzah! Thanks so much for the info, Loretta!

      I'll just have to him that the "silver monkey" is taking a little vacation.. :)

  2. Sad that the parking lot is going to stay. In a city with alleys, there's no reason for street frontage to be taken up by parking. Still, good to see the property being put back to use.

    1. I for one am VERY happy to see the parking lot stay, as I live on that block. Not everyone who has a car, Tom, also has a garage spot. They are adding 24 residential units that didn't exist before, which could add 10, 15, 20 more cars to the block. It's nice to know that as a block resident we won't be completely punished for that fact. Parking around here can already be difficult, especially with how late parking goes to and how early it starts now.