WEST TOWN — A 100-year-old cinema that screened Spanish-language movies in the 1970s before briefly housing a clothing store will see new life as a ballroom dancing studio and banquet hall, its owner said Wednesday.
If all goes as planned, The Shapiro Ballroom, inspired by Keith Shapiro, a photographer, dance instructor and DJ, will be open by the end of the year in the former Alvin Theater, 1612 W. Chicago Ave., owner Dee McCord said.
The 5,000 square-foot event center and ballroom studio specializing in teaching wedding couples how to dance will be operated by McCord, a professional ballroom dancer and owner of I Do Dance, which employs six other instructors who teach 30 types of partner dances.
McCord signed a 10-year-lease and will be breaking ground to do renovations by the end of the month.
"We are completely renovating it and just got all of the floor plans approved," she said.
McCord teaches out of the Dance Center of Chicago in Lincoln Square and has administrative offices in Roger Park but will be centralizing both operations at The Shapiro Ballroom when it opens.
The added space will enable McCord to add more instructors instructors, and the banquet hall will give couples the opportunity to have their first dance as a married couple on the ballroom floor where they learned how to dance together.
As an added perk, couples getting married can see their names "in lights" along the changing stretch of Chicago Avenue just west of Ashland Avenue.
"That marquee is no longer allowed in Chicago but it is grandfathered in," McCord said of the marquee in front of the unique building, designed by architect David Saul Klafter.
When not hosting weddings, The Shapiro Ballroom can be rented for social, corporate, or philanthropic events, according to its website.
Built in 1913, the Alvin Theater was a one-screen theater and playhouse before becoming home to a clothing store that closed a few years ago.
McCord said she wanted to announce the news of The Shapiro Ballroom on Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of Shapiro's death. McCord met Shapiro when she was in her teens and just starting her career.
Shapiro was "a father figure and mentor who convinced me that I could open my own studio one day," McCord said.
News that the building being put back in use again was heralded by local residents.
"I'm glad to see that building brought back to productive use. It will make a huge difference on that block," said Michael VanDam, a member of the East Village Association.
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