Movie theatre/retail complex and Chicago Artists Coalition HQ planned for West Loop
April 5, 2018

Courtesy of True West Loop
Sterling Bay plans a building featuring a movie theatre complex, parking, and retail in the Fulton Market area.

By Susan Fong

A new movie theatre and retail complex, and the Chicago Artists Coalition headquarters, are coming to the West Loop.

Developer Anthony Hrusovsky of Sterling Bay, along with Brett Taylor of the architectural firm Gensler, recently announced development of a nine-story theater building at 345 N. Morgan St. with ground floor retail, six floors of parking with 275 spaces, and an 11-screen theater on top—some with restaurants. The developer hopes to complete the building sometime in 2020. Sterling Bay also is proposing three other office buildings in the Fulton Market neighborhood within a two-block radius for 330, 333, and 360 N. Green St.

The 345 N. Morgan St. site would require a zoning change from M2-3 light industry to DX-5 downtown mixed use with a 5.0 floor area ratio (meaning the floor area may measure up to five times as large as the lot). A vacant commercial building currently occupies the site. 

Proposed zoning changes would require review by the Chicago Plan Commission (CPC).

“The movie theater is a very positive advancement and provides important nighttime and weekend entertainment for residents and citywide patrons, improving pedestrian density,” said Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Fulton Market Association (FMA). “We want the increased vitality of pedestrian traffic, as it improves public safety. The movie theater concept dovetails well with the longtime food wholesalers next door, as well as helping our restaurants, retailers, and art galleries.”

Romanelli said the FMA has requested that the City provide improved safety features on six arterial streets: Grand Avenue and Morgan, Hubbard, Kinzie, Lake, and Randolph Streets. Officials expect increased traffic with a new theatre and retail complex, and Romanelli called street safety a primary consideration.

“There is broad support for a long awaited theater from our group,” said Moshe Tamssot, founder of True West Loop, a West Loop-themed online forum. “We hope that our hopes won’t be dashed again, like they were when the Sundance Theater project was canceled and the Target replaced it.”

True West Loop is a public forum on Facebook, TrueWestLoop.com, where West Loop residents, businesses, and any interested parties can discuss topics and use real-time polling to deliver information about the community to public officials.

While community residents expressed concerns about height, they welcomed the multiple-story parking garage, which could sway community support for the developer to go even taller. Said Tamssot, “Sterling Bay plans to be able to make it convertible to other uses in the future, which offers the best of both worlds.”

Matt Letourneau of Neighbors of the West Loop (NOWL) said his organization welcomes the added entertainment option but specified in a Feb. 2 letter to Alderman Walter Burnett (27th Ward) regarding the four proposed buildings that the group would support the project only after developers consider suggested changes.

Burnett was unavailable for comment.

The Chicago Artists Coalition will move its headquarters to 2130-40 W. Fulton St. in the West Loop community.

Addressing an expected dramatic change in traffic flow, NOWL asked Sterling Bay for a comprehensive traffic study that includes potential problems and proposed solutions. Specific to the 345 N. Morgan St. theater building, NOWL wants developers to “provide greater width for the access drive on the south side of the building to allow ingress and egress by taxis and transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft. Otherwise, these activities will take place on Morgan, creating significant traffic congestion,” according to Letourneau.

The developers’ plans affect both the 27th Ward and the 25th Ward, whose alderman is Danny Solis. Nicole Wellhausen, legislative aide to the Chicago City Council, said the Sterling Bay projects were on the Jan. 25 docket for vote, but officials deferred them because the CPC had not seen nor approved building plans. Officials did approve two office buildings’ parcels for zoning changes in February but have deferred a decision on the 345 N. Morgan St. and 360 N. Green St. plans.

Wellhausen noted the 345 N. Morgan theater building does not appear on future dockets yet, explaining that proposals first must pass CPC review, and then either the ward’s alderman or developer’s attorney must request that the project enter the docket.

Kevin Bargnes, information coordinator, Department of Planning and Development, said, “We have no other information on a new hearing date or when it’s moving forward at this time.”

The Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC) recently announced its new location at 2130-40 W. Fulton St. CAC will occupy 6,286 square feet of a 55,000 square foot building, giving CAC the option to grow over time. The 44-year-old non-profit organization has operated from its current location at 217 N. Carpenter St. for the past seven years.

Established in 1974, CAC is a non-profit organization dedicated to support for emerging Chicago artists through education, artist residencies, and exhibitions.

“We have truly appreciated the community support that we received at our current building in the Fulton Market District,” said CAC executive director Caroline Older.  “As we continue to grow, the new location just west of the district will provide benefits that will allow us to serve an even wider community and to be more easily accessed by those we serve.”

Stephanie Lentz, development director at CAC, explained that Jeff Shapack, a CAC board member and president of Shapack Partners, and real estate broker Larry Serota of Transwestern “worked to find a building and area that was right  for CAC in terms of accessibility by public transportation, affordability, and community.”

The buildout began in March, with CAC planning to move in during June. The new space’s single-floor layout will be Americans with Disabilities Act accessible and provide a dedicated education space, enhanced artist studios, and galleries.

This location attracted CAC’s leaders because it offers easy access from downtown and the expressways. The site is accessible with the Grand Avenue and Damen Avenue Chicago Transit Authority buses and will be close to the new Damen Avenue CTA Green Line el stop slated to open in 2020.

“CAC is grateful to the Arts and Culture Loan Fund from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,” said Lentz. “Qualifying for the program and loan enables CAC to plan for the move to its new location.”

The CAC will host Work In Progress 2018 on Thursday, June 7, a benefit honoring Rhona Hoffman, a supporter of Chicago artists and the arts community, with time and location to be announced.

For the Chicago Artists Coalition, log on to www.chicagoartistscoalition.com. To learn more about Gensler, log on to www.gensler.com. For information about NOWL, log on to neighborsofwestloop.com. For Sterling Bay, log on to www.sterlingbay.com.