Aurora Arts Centre construction could begin next summer

  • Construction could begin next summer to convert the former Waubonsee Community College into the Aurora Arts Centre.

    Construction could begin next summer to convert the former Waubonsee Community College into the Aurora Arts Centre. Daily Herald file photo

By Amy Roth
Daily Herald correspondent

Construction could start as soon as next summer on a $34 million arts center next to the Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora.

The city council Tuesday approved the city's portion of funding for the center in its 2017 budget as well as agreements with the developer.

The Aurora Arts Centre is planned for the former Waubonsee Community College building at Galena Boulevard and Stolp Avenue.

Included in plans for the center are a performing arts school. Paramount Theatre President and CEO Tim Rater said candidates for the school's director of education are being interviewed.

"We are about to start our second round of interviews," Rater said after the council meeting. "We received about 100 resumes, and about 50 were local to the area. We hope to have someone in place in two or three months."

The arts center also is to include 38 apartments being designed with artist residents in mind, rehearsal space for the Paramount Theatre, a small performance venue and a 5,000-square-foot restaurant.

The Community Builders, developers of the project, opened a similar development in North Washington Park in Chicago last year.

Brian Caputo, the city's chief financial officer, told the council during his budget presentation that the city's contributions to the project include $500,000 in tax increment financing funds -- funds set aside for redevelopment rather than for local governments -- $700,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding and $600,000 of HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds.

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Also, he said, a $3 million Section 108 housing loan is included. That loan would be paid back by revenue streams created by the project itself, said Assistant Chief of Staff Rick Guzman. The building also will go back on the tax rolls after having been off for 30 years.

Earlier this year, the city was awarded a tax credit of about $15 million from the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

Guzman said the development agreements approved Tuesday are "key to putting in place all of the 17 financing pieces."

"This is a good fit for our city and it's another important piece of the economic downtown puzzle we have been working on for many, many years," 6th Ward Alderman Mike Saville said. "The downtown that we have today looks better than it has probably in three decades.

"It's fair to say we are a happening city. I'm very excited about this for our city and what it means for our future and this is just the beginning, I think."

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