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Howard St. Entertainment District? Dream Revived With Gallery's Expansion

By Benjamin Woodard | October 7, 2014 4:57am
 Roman Susan Art Gallery opened a gallery on Howard Street in hopes to jumpstart an "entertainment hub."
Roman Susan Art Gallery opened a gallery on Howard Street in hopes to jumpstart an "entertainment hub."
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

ROGERS PARK — An art gallery owner and the manager of the former Howard Theater building have hopes to revive Howard Street's reputation as an "entertainment hub."

Roman Susan Art Gallery opened this month a new location at 1637 W. Howard St., occupying a vacant storefront with art by Megan Sterling.

Gallery owner Kristin Abhalter calls the offsite location the Roman Susan Annex. She said she could also offer programming at other locations throughout the neighborhood.

But on Howard, a section of Rogers Park known for its problem with street violence, she also hopes to jumpstart more theater and art programs.

"I think that it would draw a larger cultural crowd to the area and kind of restore that part of the city into an entertainment hub," she said.

Jay Johnson — who manages 40 apartments and a stretch of storefronts at 1615-43 W. Howard St., which feature the facade of the razed Howard Theater auditorium — agrees.

"I have a vision to bring more art to the neighborhood on Howard Street," he said Monday. "Sol Cafe was the initial stone that we got pushed over the edge to create some momentum."

He said he was in talks with other art groups that might want to partner with him to use the few remaining empty storefronts in the building.

The former Jamaican Jerk restaurant, which closed recently, will be replaced with new restaurant Aguas Tortas by the end of the month.

"There’s a lot of momentum for positive things in Rogers Park in general," he said. "I think the stars have aligned. Neighborhoods change, become more pedestrian friendly, when there’s more art and restaurants."

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