RIVER NORTH — With its attendance soaring, the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago now has a growing vision to match.
The River North-based cultural group last week unveiled its dream for a new 150,000-square-foot complex it wants to build Downtown. The Ibero-American Tower, designed by Chicago-based Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects, was revealed on the opening night of the Chicago Latino Film Festival earlier this month.
The $50-million project would include a new museum and Latino cultural center, as well as retail, multiple classrooms and theaters and a hotel, among other components. The plan coincides with the 30th anniversary of the center, which saw its annual attendance rise to more than 70,000 last year, up from just 500 when it first opened in 1985.
More than 775,000 people of Hispanic or Latino origin live in Chicago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, making up nearly 29 percent of the city's population.
"A better city includes an institution like this, so let's work together," Latino Cultural Center Executive Director Pepe Vargas said.
The endeavor indeed requires collaborative work. Vargas said the center won't begin fundraising the project until it chooses a development site, ideally in River North. The group would also need a development partner, and its current building at 676 N. LaSalle St. is for sale.
The tower would celebrate Chicago's large Hispanic population and the resilience of the Latino cultural center, which endured the recession, Vargas said. That's why his group aims to build something that could last for at least another 30 years.
"What we are calling for is for something special, because there is one thing that has changed dramatically: the fear that we couldn’t make it, that it was impossible," Vargas said. "It has changed."
The project would require city approval, and Vargas said his group may seek local, state or federal funding if they cannot raise enough on their own, though he has yet to request public funding.
The current Latino cultural center site, where Vargas said he would ideally like to have the new center built, does not lie in a tax increment financing district.
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