“For anyone who likes old Chicago movie houses or performance venues, those ornate places meant to transport patrons of years past to a romanticized place far away, I have good news and — well — I won’t call it bad news, but it’s disappointing nonetheless.
“To the good news: Despite the pandemic, which has knocked the props from under any business in the performing arts or that requires crowds to gather, a developer is undeterred in his plans to restore Bridgeport’s Ramova Theatre at 3518 S. Halsted St.
“The Ramova deal is one of those dreamy projects that seemingly had no chance against the economic imperatives forced by a pathogen that silenced some businesses, helped others and generally led investors in risky projects to say, “Whoa.”
“But Tyler Nevius said he’s still ready and able to proceed at the Ramova, despite having to put plans on hold for a year. Turning the Ramova into a community hub as a performing arts center, with a brewpub and a reimagining of the old Ramova Grill, was always a ’cause-focused project.’ The delay during our plague only reinforces that mission, he said.
“The project has its necessary authorizations from the city, including an agreement for up to $6.64 million in tax-increment financing. Nevius said he now plans to begin work in late spring or early summer and have the project completed in late 2022.
“Neighbors will welcome any progress at the Ramova, which has been empty and decaying for about 35 years. The cinema was built in 1929, the work of architect Myer O. Nathan. It’s considered a twin of the Music Box Theatre on the North Side. Getting the Ramova back in shape would give Bridgeport a commercial anchor and do a little for South Side pride as well.
“While the smaller Music Box has been lovingly preserved, the Ramova was neglected. The city got control and paid for emergency work in 2001 after water damage threatened to wreck the interior beyond salvation. Many who grew up in Bridgeport remember its lobby in the style of a Spanish courtyard and the faux stars in the auditorium ceiling.
“Nevius’ $22.9 million plan calls for dividing the 1,800-seat auditorium into two performance spaces. The balcony can be converted into space for acts drawing about 200 people. He also has emphasized a desire to host events for schools and community groups.”(Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 3/22/21)
Preservation Chicago is thrilled 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 it’s time for its return to Halsted and 35th Street as part of this comprehensive Ramova Theater renovation?
Preservation Chicago continues to work with stakeholders in an effort to help the final Ramova Theater redevelopment be as successful as possible. We fully support this development and the use of TIF funds to make it possible. This is precisely the type of neighborhood-oriented reinvestment that Chicago needs to help make all neighborhoods vibrant places to live, work and explore.
After a pandemic pause, developer picks up plan at Bridgeport’s Ramova Theatre; Tyler Nevius says his backers remain in place and he hopes to reopen the 1929 movie house as a performing arts venue by late 2022, David Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 3/22/21
Plans For $23 Million Revival Of Bridgeport’s Ramova Theatre Revealed — And Neighbors Are Thrilled; In addition to the theater, the Duck Inn’s Kevin Hickey will bring back the Ramova Grill and include throwback favorites like chili and tamales, Ariel Cheung, Block Club Chicago, 11/20/19
Bridgeport’s Ramova Theatre in line for $22.9 million redevelopment; With city help, the project would convert the 90-year-old movie house into a live entertainment center. David Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 11/20/19