The Forum team is working to stabilize the structure and to initiate a complete rehabilitation of the complex. The intent of the rehabilitation is to re-establish The Forum as a premier Chicago entertainment destination founded on a celebration of the music, art, and history of the Bronzeville community and, in doing so, to catalyze the broader redevelopment of Historic 43rd Street.
Stabilization of the Forum structure has been the primary focus of the Forum Team, forthe first 18 months after acquisition of the property in July 2011. The Forum had been placed on the City of Chicago’s Emergency Demolition List in Spring 2011 due to a significant breach of a portion of the masonry wall comprising the east face of the building, just below the roof line. Due to a lack of maintenance of the building’s roof systems by the previous owner of the property, rainfall had penetrated a section of masonry and washed out the mortar joining the common brick. As a result, most rain events resulted in bricks from this area raining onto the sidewalk and endangering passersby.
Stabilization has been a three-phase process. First, the masonry “hole” was repaired, thereby eliminating the safety threat. Second, a wide range of other deferred maintenance items, including masonry, roofing, and fencing issues was addressed and the building was fully secured. Third, a tremendous amount of debris – filling 25 40-yard dumpsters – was removed from the building and a number of issues thereby uncovered was addressed.
REDEVELOPMENT VISION & RATIONALE
Forum Hall, the iconic assembly hall located on the second floor of the corner building, will be fully rehabilitated to provide uniquely flexible performance space to established and emerging performers in music, dance, and theater, while hosting a diverse range of events. Forum Retail, the six retail spaces between the “El” and Calumet Avenue, will be built out to house an assortment of venues that combine high-quality hospitality offerings with unique performances. The Forum complex would be completed with the establishment of a nearby patron parking area and an outdoor public square.
This vision of The Forum as a performance destination is anchored by two key sets of market facts.
There is a proven and substantial unserved market in Bronzeville for food & entertainment.
A recent study sponsored by Quad Communities Development Corporation revealed a demand for $80.7 million in Food Service & Drinking Places versus a supply of just $31.2 million.
This gap in supply versus demand represents tremendous unmet demand and the leakage of spending power from the Bronzeville community. Equally important is the Chicago-wide latent demand for high-quality black entertainment. Between 1920 and 1960, Bronzeville was the Chicagoland destination for black culture with patrons mixing at clubs such as Club DeLisa, the Brown Derby and Riddles Cocktail Lounge, and dining at venues such as Gerri’s Palm Tavern, Morris Perfect Eat Shop, and Dallas Lunch. This cultural offering has not been reestablished in Chicago and the city-wide demand remains unmet.
The Forum provides a uniquely strong platform for generating high-quality cultural offerings and filling the market need.
Along with the South Side Community Arts Center, the DuSable Museum, the Hall Branch of Chicago Public Libraries, and the Parkway Ballroom, it is one of a handful of major cultural venues that survived the collapse of the Bronzeville retail and hospitality marketplace, which was an unintended by-product of the civil rights era. As such, it brings tremendous history and a high level of authenticity to cultural offerings. Moreover, its location at the heart of the community, its proximity to the 43rd Street CTA Green Line station, and the direct access to 43rd Street from the Dan Ryan Expressway, provides excellent accessibility. Finally, with over 30,000 sq. ft. of usable space it is large enough to house a critical mass of cultural offerings; and, there is ample space along 43rd Street to establish complementary venues and to develop parking and other supportive facilities.
Redevelopment of The Forum is underway, with Phase 1 completed:
Phase 1: Stabilization
Stabilization of the structure has been completed as of Spring 2013.
Phase 2: Forum Retail
Retail development will proceed in two sub-phases in order to build momentum and to appropriately coordinate with the development of Forum Hall.
(A) Redevelopment of the 318 – 322 East 51st Street spaces in the “West Annex”
These slots are separated from Forum Hall and therefore can be developed independently.
(B) Redevelopment of the 324-328 spaces is expected to begin in 2015
These spaces lie directly underneath Forum Hall and will need to share key utilities, including an elevator, a range of mechanical facilities, and a major culinary facility, with the Hall.
Phase 3: Forum Hall
Development of Forum Hall is expected to begin in 2015. This will include the Hall itself as well as the substantial back-of-the-house facilities located in the “North Annex”, a nearby parking facility, and a public square.