Upscale restaurant announced for Aurora Arts Center

 
 
Posted4/25/2019 5:57 PM
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  • The location of the new John C. Dunham Aurora Arts Center, in March 2018. Restaurateur Amy Morton is opening a restaurant on the first floor, the city announced Wednesday.

    The location of the new John C. Dunham Aurora Arts Center, in March 2018. Restaurateur Amy Morton is opening a restaurant on the first floor, the city announced Wednesday. Daily Herald file photo, March 2018

  • Restaurant owner Amy Morton, left, and Tim Rater, president and chief executive officer of the Aurora Civic Center Authority, in the space in the John C. Dunham Aurora Arts Center where Morton will open a restaurant. Rater is also president and CEO of the Paramount Theater, which uses part of the building.

    Restaurant owner Amy Morton, left, and Tim Rater, president and chief executive officer of the Aurora Civic Center Authority, in the space in the John C. Dunham Aurora Arts Center where Morton will open a restaurant. Rater is also president and CEO of the Paramount Theater, which uses part of the building. Photo courtesy of the City of Aurora

A Chicago restaurateur plans to open an upscale restaurant next to the Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora.

Amy Morton's newest venture, yet unnamed, will be at 5 E. Galena Blvd., in the John C. Dunham Aurora Arts Center.

Renovations to the Art Deco space should be finished in time for it to open for the 2019-20 Paramount season this fall, according to a news release from the city. A ceremony with Mayor Richard Irvin, Paramount officials and other dignitaries took place Wednesday.

"Aurora is putting its money where its mouth is and has clearly committed to revitalizing the city," Morton said, mentioning the success of the Paramount's "Broadway Series," started seven years ago, which has the highest subscription sales among Illinois theaters and second in the nation.

The Aurora Arts Center is a project of The Community Builders Inc., a nonprofit developer, in partnership with the Paramount, the city, Invest Aurora and the Illinois Housing Development Authority. It received affordable-housing tax credits from the IHDA, to build 38 loft apartments. The city is also kicking in $650,000.

The spot

The 91-year-old building is undergoing a $38 million renovation. Besides apartments, there is the Paramount School of the Arts. The Paramount also will house visiting performers there, store items, and have a rehearsal space in the building.

It started life as a Block and Kuhl department store, then became a Carson Pirie Scott store and later housed Waubonsee Community College classes.

One of the restaurant's features will be a brass-topped bar, with a bead-board facade, in the center. The menu will focus on steaks and pastas.

Morton is the daughter of the late Arnie Morton, the legendary Chicago restaurant owner of Morton's Steakhouse fame.

But she has developed her own reputation over the years, starting with Mirador and The Blue Room in the late 1980s and early 1990s. She spent some time working as a consultant, then took time off to raise a family.

When she returned she opened FOUND Kitchen and Social House in Evanston; the Barn Steakhouse in Evanston; and Patty2, a hamburger place, on the campus of Northwestern University.

Morton said she intends to hire entry-level workers from the Aurora area. She is known for hiring people battling homelessness. Morton volunteered for Connections for the Homeless.

Other eateries

In March, Irvin announced two other restaurants were coming to the same block: outposts of Altiro Latin Fusion, and Mora Asian Fusion.

A fine-dining place will be welcomed. Alex Alexandrou, chief management officer for the city, mentioned that April 1, when city officials talked to the East Aurora school board about plans to use property-tax-based economic incentives to attract downtown development.

"One of the biggest things that peeves me when I look out the window on Wednesday afternoons (after Paramount matinees) is watching all these people walk out of the theater, go to their cars and drive away because we don't have yet the capacity of restaurants in the downtown," he said.

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