Friday, August 18, 2023

TimeLine Theatre Receives $100K Donation Towards Its New Building On Broadway

a rendering of the new TimeLine theater building at 5035 Broadway

This week, TimeLine Theatre Company announced that it had received a $100,000 grant to help further construction of its future home in Uptown.

The generous donation was made by the TAWANI Foundation, a philanthropic 501(c)(3) organization founded by Col. Jennifer Pritzker. According to a statement, TAWANI provides support in the areas of arts and culture, historical preservation, health and wellness, LGBTQ+ and human rights, education and environmental initiatives.

5035 North Broadway today
In addition, the TAWANI Foundation is including an additional $100,000 in matching funds. According to its website, it donated $50,000 to the theater company in 2022.

In December 2018, Ald. Osterman and TimeLine announced that the organization would be moving to Uptown, having arranged to purchase a 1910 storage building at 5035 Broadway and the vacant lot immediately south of it (5033 Broadway).

Like so many well-planned ventures, there were "unexpected discoveries that necessitated continued innovation," as TimeLine tactfully put it:
  • COVID came along, requiring the shuttering of live entertainment venues. TimeLine was shut down at its current (rented) space at 615 W Wellington Avenue and scrapped its entire 2020-2021 season.
  • The original plan was to build a new-construction glass-fronted building in the vacant lot at 5033, and connecting it to, and renovating, the vintage building at 5035. The new building was to hold the customized 250-seat main theater.
  • But then....
  • The CTA took over the vacant lot at 5033 to work on the Red Purple Line project; that lease lasts through 2026, making it unavailable to TimeLine until then.
  • Installing the main theater into the vintage building proved to be an untenable plan for many reasons:
  • The requirement for ceiling height in the new theater couldn't work because the 1910 building's structure was not able to support floor and ceiling changes.
  • A new below-ground caisson foundation system would have had to be built to support the structural changes in the building.
  • An evaluation showed significant deterioration of the roof parapet and existing fa├žade that would require rebuilding and restoration. This is due to "water infiltration," words that strike fear into any property owner. It's always worse that we think, and more expensive than we expect.
TimeLine made the difficult decision to raze the existing building and build a modern building that can be customized to the specific requirements that a theater needs. TimeLine will preserve the original building on the east side of the property to be used as office space and for production operations. You can read more -- much more! -- about it in greater detail on TimeLine's website.

So, stay tuned! Getting anything done on time in the City of Chicago is always a slog, but a worldwide pandemic, the renovation of a 100-year-old transit line, and unexpected structural problems of a vintage building are truly a trifecta to be reckoned with.

Here's to TAWANI Foundation for helping TimeLine realize its dreams of a new theater building. We look forward to seeing it happen, whenever it does.

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