THREATENED: Fundraising Challenges Delay Avalon Regal Theater Restoration and Reopening (Chicago 7 2012)

The Avalon Regal Theater, 1927, John Eberson, 1641 East 79th Street. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
The Avalon Regal Theater, 1927, John Eberson, 1641 East 79th Street. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

“The owner of a long-vacant, landmarked South Side theater needs millions to bring it back to life and pay off his tax debt — and now he’s partnering with a cryptocurrency company to raise money.

“The Avalon Regal Theater, 1641 E. 79th St. in South Shore, has been closed since 2010. Jerald Gary bought the theater in 2014 for $100,000.

“Gary has only a few months remaining to settle tax debts before the Cook County Land Bank could take ownership of the decaying theater, the Sun-Times reported in April. He outlined his latest plans to revive the theater at a community forum Tuesday.

“Joined at the forum by local leaders, including the neighborhood chamber of commerce director and the former land bank director, Gary estimated it will take $12-$15 million to make the repairs and pay the debts needed for him to reopen the Regal.

“‘To be completely honest, that is really a bargain as far as what these kinds of projects typically take,’ Gary said.

“Gary is looking to raise $7.6 million in government funding, $5 million in private equity and $3.5 million in private fundraising for the project. He’s pushing to reopen the theater by early next year if he can raise the funds and hold on to the building, he said.

“Solidblock partnered with the Avalon Regal Theater to create digital “ArtCoins” offering shares in the project. The coins have yet to launch, though its website references the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend and the 2020 Year of Chicago Music.

“Kanye West, who grew up in South Shore, has put up about $600,000 of the $1 million commitment he made to the restoration in 2019, Gary told Block Club last week. The rest is dependent on additional investment in the project, he said.

“The theater renovation also received a $150,000 state grant for small businesses in May.

“The city is investing a lot of resources along the 79th Street corridor to attract new businesses that will potentially bring more residents and patrons into the South Shore community,” said Tonya Trice, South Shore Chamber executive director.

“The Regal Theater will be the anchor of entertainment, and the most transformational project — aside from the Obama Presidential Center — that South Shore has seen in a long time,” Trice said.

“The city granted the Regal landmark status on June 17, 1992, which prohibits it from being demolished or its exterior altered extensively unless for safety reasons.

“The Moorish-style building on 79th first opened in 1927 as the Avalon Theater, designed by movie palace architect John Eberson.

“The original Regal Theater in Bronzeville showcased several prominent black entertainers, including Lou Rawls, Nat King Cole, Etta James, Miles Davis, Curtis Mayfield and Cab Calloway. That building was torn down and the Avalon was renamed the New Regal in the 1980s. (Evans, Block Club Chicago, 6/15/22)

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago

After Taking Cash From Kanye, Avalon Regal Theater’s Owner Counting On Crypto To Bring Landmark Back To Life; Owner Jerald Gary needs $1 million to settle his tax debt or the historic South Shore theater could be taken over by the county’s land bank. And he needs millions more to restore the theater before it can reopen, Maxwell Evans, Block Club Chicago, 6/15/22

Owner of neglected Avalon Regal finds the show must go on; Despite his preservation efforts, investor Jerald Gary is being pressured to step aside as unpaid taxes mount, David Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 4/4/22

Driven by dreams but strapped for cash, owner strives to restore Avalon Regal Theater; Jerald Gary has been the landmark building’s steward, but he needs reinforcements to bring the onetime center for African American performers back to glory, David Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 9/20/21


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