$15 million tax credit to fund Aurora arts center
For the arts in Aurora, the future looks ever brighter thanks to a multimillion-dollar tax credit that will help fund a new downtown arts center.
The Illinois Housing Development Authority awarded a $15 million tax credit for the development of the Aurora Arts Center in the former Waubonsee Community College Building, adjacent to the Paramount Theatre.
The $35 million redevelopment project -- a joint effort between the theater, the city and The Community Builders Inc. -- will consist of rehearsal space for Paramount's highly successful Broadway series, a performing arts school and housing for out-of-town theater artists, said Tim Rater, Paramount Theatre president and chief executive officer.
Additionally, 38 loft apartments will be available for single artists earning up to $32,000 per year and couples earning up to $37,000 per year. The building also will include an upscale restaurant.
The Waubonsee building has been vacant for about five years. Invest Aurora, the city's not-for-profit economic development partner, purchased it for $350,000 earlier this year to facilitate the development of an arts center.
"What we're doing here is preserving history, legacy and beauty while moving the city toward a brighter future," Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said in a prepared statement released late Friday.
Authorities say private investment, aided by federal tax credits, will pay for a majority of the project. The city will contribute 5 percent. Invest Aurora estimated the center will create 80 to 100 jobs.
The project is part of an "overall game plan" using the arts to create jobs, expand tax revenue and "bring dollars to downtown," Weisner said.
The redevelopment also will help expand the city's burgeoning arts scene, Rater said, by building upon the enthusiastic, grass-roots support for the arts that Aurora residents have demonstrated.
Paramount's long-term plans for the space includes moving Broadway series rehearsals out of the Copley Theatre, at 8 E. Galena Blvd., freeing that space for additional programming, Rater said Saturday.
"We're leaving the door wide open as to what that programming might be," said Rater, who indicated it might be suitable for smaller-scale musicals, dramas and comedies.
Rater said the converted Waubonsee building will provide Paramount the space to develop new works, another long-term goal of the theater, which late last month received 14 equity Joseph Jefferson Award nominations, more than any other Chicago-area theater.
The theater, which has about 35,000 subscribers, boasted attendance of 300,000 last year.