The Aurora Arts Center is aptly named for its central role in advancing a thoughtfully planned mixed‐use, mixed‐income, community revitalization effort. The development focuses on providing quality arts education services for the community, expanding the quality and delivery of performing arts, providing quality affordable housing options geared specifically for artists, and generating job opportunities within the revitalizing downtown market. The project includes 38 affordable apartments, an arts school, a restaurant by Amy Morton, an art gallery (featuring art created or performed by the residents in the apartments), and a Broadway rehearsal space. MHA Chicago helped with the federal and state historic tax credits. Low-income housing tax credits were also utilized in order to make the rehabilitation of this national and local landmark a reality.
The two buildings that are now the Aurora Arts Center are the Stanley Building and the Block & Kuhl Building. The Block & Kuhl Building was constructed in 1928 by the Aurora Development Co. Block & Kuhl, a dry goods store originating in Peoria, and Montgomery Ward were the first tenants of the building. The Stanley Building was built in 1925 by the Stanley Furniture Company. Both structures are contributing structures of the Stolp Island Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
The buildings’ interiors were gutted after Waubonsee Community College bought the Block & Kuhl and Stanley Furniture buildings in the mid-1980s. All significant interior features, including stairs, interior partition walls, and any ornamental detailing, were removed during this extensive remodeling.
Preservation efforts of this project included retaining and repairing intricate glazed terra cotta facades on both buildings, retaining and repairing historic wood windows on the Block and Kuhl Building, and designing a new, historically compatible corner marquee sign for the Block and Kuhl Building, using historic signs as a basis for the design. The Community Builders, Inc. (TCB) led the rehabilitation and the City of Aurora joined TCB as a development partner as part of their ongoing efforts to bring new investments and a wider variety of offerings in downtown. The Aurora Civic Center Authority (Paramount Theatre) also joined as a development partner on the project, especially as they are one of the primary users of the new Aurora Arts Center.
The rehearsal facilities and the school will lead to the creation of 25 full-time jobs and over 120 part time jobs. Additionally, the restaurant is expected to employ over 85 employees.
- Landmarks Illinois | 2020 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Adaptive Use
- Multifamily Executive | 2020 Award - Mixed-Use Grand Winner
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