LINCOLN PARK — The enclosed, enhanced, year-round Theater on the Lake is cleared to go ahead with a $6 million renovation that will include a semicircular patio that a developer says will be "unparalleled in the city."
The project set for 2401 N. Lake Shore Drive cleared the Plan Commission Thursday, with the theater's owner, the Chicago Park District, saying it's on target for completion by next Memorial Day.
"The Park District really looks forward to bringing this building back to active use," said Heather Gleason, director of the Park District's Division of Planning and Development.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel first announced the conversion of the theater in November, 2013.
The previously open-air theater, originally built in 1920 as a sanitarium and converted to a performance space in 1953, will be enclosed on all sides and divided into three sections: the theater at the north end, a kitchen and restaurant at the south end along with the new semicircular patio outside with a vista of the city skyline, and an event space in the middle making it an attractive location for weddings and corporate events.
"The patio space we think is going to be unparalleled in the city," said John Wrenn of Lakefront Hospitality Group, which is handling all concessions for the Park District.
According to Wrenn, Lakefront is considering an "upscale pub menu" for the restaurant, which will seat 140. Lakefront already runs the Gage, the Dawson, Lizzie McNeil's Irish Pub and Sully's House.
Pressed by Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), a member of the Plan Commission, on what type of music they'd book into the theater for concerts, Wrenn compared it to Evanston's SPACE and said the 338-seat theater would most likely play host to quieter, "acoustical" acts.
"The overall goal is to convert Theater on the Lake to a year-round-use facility," said Dan Klaiber of the city's Department of Planning and Development, which recommended approval. He testified it would "enhance the character of Lincoln Park."
According to Gleason, parking will be available at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, with shuttle service available to other Park Districts lots in the area, including the lots at Diversey Harbor from November through May when they're not in use by boaters.
The commission approved the project unanimously.
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