After years of planning, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center announced last week that a new development on the 2700 block of West Division Street will seek to revitalize the area and usher in new economic development.
The newly named Paseo Boricua Arts Building will move into the long since abandoned buildings at Division Street where the Ashland Sausage Company was once located. The buildings will receive an entire refurbishing and an updated facade.
“For a decade, this site, which housed the Ashland Sausage Company, sat vacant. The only activity it saw was gang graffiti going up on its walls and the city’s graffiti blasters taking it down,” said Ald. Roberto Maldonado at the unveiling last week. “But thanks to [PRCC Executive Director] Jose Lopez’s vision, this building will be re-imagined, reinvented and revitalized as a place for local artists to live and create.”
According to the PRCC, a performance theater that seats close to 100 people, an art gallery and residences that offer artists both a place to live and a commercial studio are some of the highlights of the new development.
“It’s really going to compliment the infrastructure we already have in the neighborhood,” said Executive Director of the Division Street Business Development Association Eduardo Arocho.
The work and live residencies are part of something that Arocho has planned for years, he said.
And like many grand ideas, it started off as just a dream, he said.
Years ago when he first moved to Chicago, Arocho walked around the Five Corners and peered through art gallery windows on Division Street. An artist and poet himself, he admired the artists’ work in the neighborhood, he said.
But where did the artists go and live? That’s when the idea took shape, a concept to provide both residences for artists and their families while still offering them commercial space and a studio, all in the same building.
Arocho started to work towards the goal in 2004 and after years of lobbying and looking for investors, the PRCC stepped in and lent him a helping hand, he said.
The seven buildings that make up the new development were purchased by the PRCC for $2.5 million on a loan from the Belmont Bank, according to Arocho.
The plans themselves, although still in development by Brinshore Development, LLC and UrbanWorks Architecture, is set to offer 15 residencies on the property. The apartments will range from traditional one and two-bedroom apartments with all the amenities that go with them, according to Arocho.
So far about 20 artists applied for residency in the new building, Arocho said. Artists who apply for the residency also have to submit a business plan.
But the idea isn’t just to have the artists live and work in the building, but to also educate them by providing business classes to the residents to help the building and neighborhood become more self-sustainable.
“As you know, Humboldt Park is in transition. In 2014, the online real estate brokerage Redfin projected that Humboldt Park would be one of the 10 hottest neighborhoods in the country,” said Ald. Maldonado. He added the median house price has jumped 42 percent over the last year to $260,000 and that these prices are driving local artists out of the community.
“We cannot allow artists to be priced out of Humboldt Park. They are important for the heart and soul of our community,” continued Ald. Maldonado. “And they are important for the economy.”
Arocho estimates that the plans will cost $12 million more to refurbish the buildings and bring them up to code. Of the seven buildings purchased by the PRCC, six will be renovated and one demolished entirely, he said.
Arocho and the DSBDA hope to raise the rest of the money through investors and contributions, he said. Should all go well, Arocho expects to start construction in early 2016.
“I’m very excited. It will serve to help activate and maintain as a great attraction to the businesses in the area,” he said.
(Architects rendering above)
The Puerto Rican Cultural Center Board of Directors cordially invite you to a press conference and community rally announcing the Paseo Boricua Arts Building, this Monday, February 23rd, 2015 at 10:30am, 2701 W. Division Street, PASEO BORICUA.
Light refreshments will be served.
Please RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org
Below is the article that appears in the February edition of La Voz del Paseo Boricua, the monthly, volunteer-produced, newspaper of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.
Community Artists Live and Work Building to Usher In New Wave of Economic Development
New Holistic Cultural Center Showcases Artist Live/Work Spaces, Performance Theater, Art Gallery and Latin American Wine Bar Project Transforms Long-Abandoned Buildings on 2700 Block of West Division Street
Alderman Roberto Maldonado of the 26th Ward, PRCC Executive Director, José E. López, Richard Sciortino, Principal of Brinshore Development, LLC, and Urban Works Architects and James J. Banks, Chairman, Belmont Bank will officially unveil the new Paseo Boricua Arts Building on Monday, February 23rd joined by more than 100 local community residents and civic leaders. The greatly anticipated project will transform seven buildings on the 2700 Block of West Division Street, including the former site of Ashland Sausage Company vacant since 2005-into the first-ever cultural center in Chicago with a holistic focus on promoting the talents of local artists in various media. The center will offer 15 live/work residences for artists and their families; a 99 seat multi-media theater with film, theatre, and concert performances; and a nearly 3,000 square foot art gallery with a retail component allowing resident and local artists to sell their artworks. A piano lounge showcasing wines from Latin America and spirits from the Caribbean will become an anchor for nightlife on the Paseo Boricua corridor.
With assistance from the Division Street Business Development Association (DSBDA) over twenty local artists from diverse arts backgrounds have prepared business plans that will help them to maintain sustainable artist spaces and become future tenants of the building. For over 40 years, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) – under the leadership of José E. López – has been dedicated to preserving cultural identity and expanding the Paseo Boricua Cultural and Commercial corridor on Division Street, the heart of the Puerto Rican community. The Paseo Boricua Arts Building strengthens the well-developed ecosystem of this business and cultural district, bringing further economic stimulation, stability and community pride.
Join Alderman Roberto Maldonado, 26th Ward, Jose E. López, Executive Director, Puerto Rican Cultural Center. Richard Sciortino, Principal, Brinshore Development, LLC Urban Works Architects, and James J. Banks, Chairman, Belmont Bank on Monday, February 23rd, 10:30 a.m.
Thanks to Alderman Maldonado’s Support
PRCC Acquires Properties to Develop Paseo Boricua Arts Centre; Belmont Bank Provides Financing
In a move that will initiate the implementation of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s new 5-year strategic plan, the organization closed on the buildings which once served as the Ashland Sausage Company on Division Street. The acquisition of those properties is a major step in trying to commercially and culturally anchor our community as it faces the onslaught of an ever encroaching gentrification process which seeks to erase our historical memory from the Greater Humboldt Park community. These properties will be transformed into the Paseo Boricua Arts Centre: A development which will include the following: 14 live-work spaces for community artists; a 99 seat theater for performance arts and dramatic productions; a retail arts gallery business; and a Wines of Latin America/ Spirits of the Caribbean Piano Lounge. The project will definitely invigorate the financial development of the community, and will provide a place where artists can realize themselves both economically and creatively. It will truly foment a sense of place for our cultural workers.
Thanks to the support of 26th Ward Ald. Roberto Maldonado and to the financing by Belmont Bank, our community will be able to organically develop itself and continue to insure that ours will be an economically diverse, culturally vibrant community with a very strong Puerto Rican/Latino flavor and focus.
Division Street Business Development Association, and its Executive Director Eduardo Arocho will manage the initiative.