Initial funding has been announced for the potential redevelopment of the building at 1550 N Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park. Located just south of the six-corner intersection with N Damen Avenue and W North Avenue, the combined two-building site is currently home to the Lubinski Furniture store who also owns it. The redevelopment plans are being led by nonprofit arts group Equity Arts which seeks to create a permanent home for the local art scene that placed the neighborhood on the map.
The idea for the center began over five years ago by Alma Wieser who runs Heavens Gallery in the building and was inspired by the area’s history according to New City. Now the team is proposing purchasing the building and renovating a large portion of it for the community-driven center, forcing Lubinski Furniture to vacate the property after calling it home for many years with other gallery tenants in the floors above expressing a similar concern according to Block Club.
If plans progress, the ground level of the four-story building would receive a new facade with a large illuminated sign and hold two small business spaces as part of a retail incubator with a preference for either a cafe, venue, or gallery. The 38,000-square-foot center would convert the upper levels mostly into studios, galleries, public event space, and offices for the headquarters of the organization. Original plans for the development also mention the potential of a rooftop green space which was common in the 1990s among artists in the area.
Future visitors can reach the center via bus on CTA Routes 50, 56, 72, and the CTA Blue Line Damen station all within a three-minute walk. However, while Equity Arts has now received $5 million from the Chicago Recovery Plan program, it faces a steep hill in reaching their total funding goal of $17 million to fully purchase and renovate the structure. It is worth noting that the organization must receive the remaining $12 million by November.