LINCOLN PARK — Plans to transform Theater on the Lake into a year-round cultural attraction are moving forward. And if all goes according to plan, the renovated theater should reopen by next Memorial Day, city officials said.
At a Chicago Park District board meeting Wednesday, officials unanimously selected Lakefront Hospitality as the concessionaire. Lakefront is behind popular Downtown restaurant The Gage and West Town spot The Dawson, as well Lizzie McNeill's Irish Pub and Sully's House.
"We're excited. It's [going to] be something citizens and tourists will enjoy," John Wrenn of Lakefront Hospitality said at the meeting.
Wrenn said the lakefront restaurant will serve casual American fare for beachgoers.
It's not Lakefront's first time operating out of the Theater on the Lake, 2401 N. Lake Shore Drive. The company operated a small concession stand there a few years ago.
"Returning is something we've been hoping [to do] for a long time," Wrenn said.
Lakefront has agreed to pay $5.9 million in renovations, according to Park District officials.
A rendering features seating for 400 in a new area for events. [All photos courtesy Chicago Park District]
Plans to renovate Theater on the Lake have been in the works for a few years. The Park District is planning to build an area for events in the northern half of the pavilion with new lighting, sound systems and more.
“Back when I was a congressman, I secured funding for Theater on the Lake so that it could put on not just community and amateur shows, but also some of the best productions in the world," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a press conference in 2014.
In 2014, officials said they expected to complete the project by this summer.
Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a spokeswoman for the Park District, said the project was delayed because the Park District wanted to "encourage greater competition."
"We also took the opportunity to revise the bid, which ended up yielding an agreement that would be more advantageous to Chicago's taxpayers," Maxey-Faulkner said.
In Theater on the Lake's absence, productions have moved into neighborhood parks as part of the "Nights Out in the Parks" program.
The Park District added nearly 6 acres of green space and a bike trail around the Theater on the Lake and opened them to the public in January.
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