ANDERSONVILLE — Plans are underway for a $1 million project that would create a multifaceted arts venue in Andersonville at the former location of Nelson Funeral Chapel.
The Andersonville Art Center is the tentative name of the venue, which would sit at the corner of Ashland and Foster avenues.
The ambitious project would include gallery space, a theater, bar and taqueria, according to Jay Hernandez, an assistant to Las Manos Gallery owner and artist Michelle Peterson-Albandoz, who is spearheading the venture.
Hernandez, also an artist, said that, “the Andersonville Art Center is still in the very early planning stages."
"But what we know we want to happen is [to] not only have a space where we can show artwork, but also have a theater, have film screenings, have people rent out the space for different kinds of events," said Hernandez.
Nelson, at 5149 N. Ashland, and Las Manos, 1515 W. Foster, occupy the same building. Los Manos would be converted into a taqueria and linked to the center by a back patio area, Hernandez said.
He didn't give an exact date for when the center will open, but said "we're going to be trying to finish it this year."
Andersonville Chamber of Commerce Assistant Director Jason Cox said the chamber was “excited that there is interest in the Nelson space,” especially given its location just west of the neighborhood's main commercial strip.
“Sometimes [businesses] are hesitant to do something outside of just Clark Street,” he said. “It’s good people see viable options for the space.”
Nelson closed at the end of April after almost a century in the neighborhood at 5149 N. Ashland, in a building owned by Moises Candea. The property owner and his son, real estate developer Alan Candea, were left in search of a "special" new tenant to fill 8,000 square feet that has never been anything but a funeral home.
Alan Candea, who is the chief investment officer at Candea Development, said in March that the ideal successor to the space would be a "quirky," locally owned business.
The Andersonville Art Center appears to fit the bill, that is, if Peterson-Albandoz can pool enough funds to make things happen.
Hernandez said there was a lease agreement and that Peterson-Albandoz has the keys to the former Nelson space. She still, however, has to raise $1 million for the project, a sum Hernandez said might be raised through a combination of private investment, donations and grants. Asked how close to the goal his boss was, he said: "We're very far."
The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce confirmed this week that the gallery owner had met with local commerce officials in recent weeks to discuss the art center project.
But it's still early in the game.
Alan Candea said the project is in the design phase and that an architect is determining what alterations are needed inside the Nelson space, which the developer said in March would lease for $18 per square foot.