'It's so exciting': Side Street Studio Arts to move to bigger space in downtown Elgin
Pointing out the character of the exposed brick and wood beams, Tanner Melvin -- co-founder of Side Street Studio Arts -- didn't seem to mind the years of neglect and layers of lead paint and asbestos that coated the dusty old building at 62 S. Grove Ave. in Elgin.
Side Street Studio Arts had found its forever home.
"It's a building that needs a lot of attention and some love to reactivate," Melvin said. "But it's so exciting. This is going to be a part of Elgin history."
After nine years at its current location at 15 Ziegler Court, including several expansions, Side Street had outgrown its old building. The nonprofit, which focuses on art exhibition, education, performance and advocacy, had to limit enrollment to its free summer programming because of space limitations. Their most recent signup for summer programming for U-46 students had a waitlist in less than 24 hours.
"We have the people, and we have the budget to do more. We just don't have the room," he said. "With this space, we'll be able to double if not triple the number of students."
The 18,000-square-foot space at the new spot, spread out over two main floors with a mezzanine and a full basement, is more than triple the space they have in their current location.
The building, which dates back to the early 1900s, was recently purchased by the Reva & David Logan Foundation. The foundation, which has supported Side Street with grants in the past, is a Chicago-based family foundation that provides strategic grants to support social justice, the arts and investigative journalism.
Side Street will get a long-term lease with a nominal rent of under $100 a year. The arrangement will save Side Street about $50,000 a year that they say will go back into programming and paying artists.
"We've had amazing landlords since we started, and it's going to be really sad leaving," he said of the space they've called home since 2013.
Side Street will pay for the renovations to the space.
The project will include installing a new HVAC system and ductwork, new electrical system, a new sprinkler system and updating an old manual elevator.
Melvin said it will take a couple of years to do the work. He couldn't say for sure how much it would cost but threw out $1 million as a guesstimate.
"We have a lot of fundraising to do," he said. "These old buildings, they need a lot of work. But the community has supported us from day one in a number of ways, and we'll do whatever we have to do to raise the money."
Melvin said they plan to keep the floor plan open for flexibility. The first and second floors are mostly wide open already, extending from the front on Grove Avenue to Riverside Drive on the rear. A bank of windows on the second floor provides a wide view of downtown Elgin, and the back windows on the mezzanine look straight out on the Fox River.
"To find a building that gets this amount of light is not easy downtown," he said.
They'll redo the hardwood floors upstairs and use it primarily for performance space "like an old school dance hall," he said.
The space also has a rooftop area that they plan to renovate. "The views are going to be amazing," Melvin said. "We've already had people inquire about renting it."
A downstairs basement area will be for education and lab space. Melvin said he hopes to transform an old boiler into a forge for glassblowing and metalwork.
In addition to doing what Side Street already does in a bigger way, Melvin said he hopes it can branch out with some new events like a large-scale biennial art show that opens up from their space and spills onto Riverside Drive.
"Every downtown needs an entertainment district," he said. "We have been trying for nine years to get other people involved, and we've done a lot of great work, but his town needs more. This town deserves more. This place is going to be part of that."