With a real estate closing early in October, the former Waubonsee Community College building in downtown Aurora will soon become a regional destination arts center. As crews begin interior rehabilitation this week, officials are planning for a new era in the resurgence of the arts in the City of Lights.
“Downtown is evolving right before our eyes, and we are all eager to see what it becomes,” said Mayor Richard C. Irvin. “As the Aurora Arts Centre project moves forward, so does the progress of the entire downtown area. The opportunity to take vacant property and transform it into a multi-use complex provides a blueprint for future projects throughout our city.”
Vacant for more than five years, the former college is located directly next door to the Paramount Theatre. Invest Aurora purchased the building last year for $350,000 in order to facilitate the development of the Arts Centre. The 80,000 sq. ft. Aurora Arts Centre is a $35 million investment and the next major milestone in Downtown Aurora’s revitalization effort.
“We have been working to make this happen for two years and are excited to see construction begin,” says Tim Rater, Paramount Theatre President & CEO. “This is an important opportunity in making the performing arts accessible for every age and socioeconomic background, while contributing to the future growth of Aurora’s downtown.”
In partnership with the Paramount Theatre, the City of Aurora, and the Illinois Housing Development Authority, The Community Builders, Inc.(TCB)-a leading nonprofit developer of affordable, mixed-income and mixed-use developments-will transform two conjoined historic buildings into the Aurora Arts Centre, which will provide:
- Paramount School of Performing Arts (25,000 sq. ft.)
- Rehearsal space for the Paramount Theatre (8,000 sq. ft.)
- Restaurant adjacent to the Paramount Theatre (4,000 sq. ft.)
- 38 affordable apartments specifically designed to support working artists
- Paramount Theatre guest artist apartments
“The Community Builders is committed to the continued revitalization of downtown Aurora, and we’re thrilled to begin the interior work on the Aurora Arts Centre,” said Will Woodley, TCB’s director of development, Chicago. “The center will play an integral role in bringing more jobs, more people and more economic and cultural vitality to downtown Aurora.”
On behalf of Aurora Downtown, a non-profit organization of business and property owners in downtown Aurora, community outreach officer Marissa Amoni said that the new arts center is in line with the current upswing in arts and culture in downtown.
“We’re excited that people are taking notice of the art scene in downtown. First Fridays has proven what artists can do for downtown foot traffic, and it’ll be great to showcase more local talent as more artists move to downtown,” Amoni said.