“I went to the Ramova when I was 4 years old to see Bambi, and was hooked ever since then,” Sullivan said. The Ramova played an outsize role in Sullivan’s upbringing in Bridgeport, as it did for many others she grew up with.
“As teenagers that’s what we did,” she said. “We hung around [the Ramova] pretty much all day, and hung out with our peers and people we had never met before from different places.”
“In 2005, Sullivan started organizing the Save the Ramova campaign to make sure the theater didn’t get torn down – and maybe even one day restored.
“We got in touch with Preservation Chicago and we started working with them on a petition, and shortly thereafter we had about 4,000 signatures and a lot of stories about what it meant to people around here,” she said.
“For the next 15 years there was a lot of talk, but not much action. That is, until late 2019, when a New York developer named Tyler Nevius arrived in Bridgeport with an ambitious plan to redevelop the space. Nevius – who works in the entertainment industry – plans to transform the decrepit old theater into a performance hub, which could host upwards of 100 shows a year.
“Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, 11th Ward, who represents most of Bridgeport, says the plan has so far been met with overwhelming support. “We had about 300 or so people at a meeting for the Ramova, and I’ve never been involved in a meeting where it was unanimous – everybody in the office was excited,” he said.
“But the theater is in rough shape, and the project is expected to cost close to $23 million – $6.6 million will come from Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, and another million from the state of Illinois. The city of Chicago is selling the property to Nevius for just $1. The rest will come from private investors and loans.
“Thompson says the substantial amount of public money going to the project is well worth it; the theater will incentivize development along this stretch of Halsted Street. “It’ll absolutely be a tremendous engine for revitalization and redevelopment down here,” he said.
“After years of advocating for restoration, Sullivan says she’s cautiously optimistic the project will go forward – and absolutely thrilled at its potential. “A building like this is something we can’t build again, and once it’s gone we’ve lost it forever. I’d really like to grow the neighborhood but I’d also like to preserve our history, and have those touchstones for us to remember where we came from,” she said.” (WTTW, 1/28/2020)
Preservation Chicago is thrilled about the news that the Ramova Theater will finally be restored and reopened. The Ramova Theater was a Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2012 along with a number of other neighborhood theaters. Preservation Chicago has been advocating for years to find a user for the Ramova in partnership with the Save the Ramova campaign lead by Maureen Sullivan, a dedicated Bridgeport neighbor and community leader. We were even involved with the preservation and relocation of the Ramova Grill interior fixtures, a beloved neighborhood restaurant located next to the theater, to Benton House in 2012. Perhaps its time for its return to Halsted and 35th Street as part of this comprehensive Ramova Theater renovation?