Central Park Theater Restoration

The historic Central Park Theater is the mothership movie palace of collaborations between theater operators Balaban & Katz and Architects C.W. Rapp and George L. Rapp.

Located in the North Lawndale neighborhood on Chicago's West Side, it has been in the care of the House of Prayer Church of God in Christ since shortly after the movie palace closed in 1971.

The church is working with a collaboration of non-profits and historic preservation professionals organized as the Central Park Theater Restoration Committee. The long-term goal is a phased plan to fully restore the theater, which was built in 1917.

Immediate stabilization needs are to install a furnace in the building as well as address some final water infiltration issues. The repair funds are needed by January 2021:
1. · Replace existing furnaces in the auditorium area and provide new spiral ductwork to improve distribution. This HVAC is a temporary fix in order to heat the building through the winter and prevent further issues. Current furnaces are near the end of their functional life and are in poor or inoperable condition. 

2. Address water infiltration from penthouse at lower north building roof where water infiltration is most urgent. Tuckpoint existing brick wall to prevent water infiltration. Clean downspouts and remove debris from roof currently causing water to back up on existing roof membrane. Patch and repair roof membrane at parapet walls and re-adhere to parapet wall at areas of extreme damage. Board up existing opening to prevent further break-ins and water infiltration through roof access, or install new door for roof access and maintenance.

3. Dispose of water damaged material from basement. Conduct environmental report in basement. 

Administration of these funds is being coordinated between the Central Park Theater Restoration Committee members and the House of Prayer Church of God in Christ. Bids for the emergency repair needs will be accepted by both the Restoration Committee and the church. Funds donated to this effort will be released for authorized expenditures, and will be released upon consent of both groups.

This iconic building has also been important to the heritage and culture of the North Lawndale community. Finding a shared use for the space will benefit the community at large as well as a place of worship for the church. The partnership is convening a business planning process with IFF, a financing and real estate services organization serving the Midwest. A building condition assessment was completed by the firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates. In a separate effort, the Restoration Committee is raising funds to prepare a construction cost estimate for the phased work outlined in the WJE report.

The phases of this project are as follows:

Phase 1: 2020-2021
- Project Planning
- Community Partnerships & Coalition Building
- Building History & Significance Research
- Community Engagement: Surveys, Interviews, and Visioning
- Building Assessment (Architecture, Preservation, Engineering)
- Building Stabilization (Here's where we need your help!)

Phase 2: Pre-Development, Building Design & Engineering, Community Engagement

Phase 3: Construction & Renovation

Phase 4: Programming & Activation

CORE VALUES: The Central Park Theater Restoration Committee operates under the following core values:

1. Community is the driver. The House of Prayer Church and the needs and voices of North Lawndale Community are central to decision making. 

2. Ensure economic investment is centered in community-based individuals and does not impact autonomy and ownership of the House of Prayer.

3. Issues of race, class, religion, and other forms of oppression exist and are at play in the community of North Lawndale, and in the history of Central Park Theater itself.

4. Ultimate goal of revitalization is to have a multi-use community space that would allow for--- housing, small- and large-scale community events with local organizations, and continued use by the House of Prayer.

The House of Prayer Church of God in Christ and the North Lawndale community at large will benefit from this restoration effort. Another winter without the water infiltration repairs or a furnace will further deteriorate the building.

For more information about the theater, this renovation project, and the Restoration Committee partners, please visit: https://centralparktheater.org/

Thank you for your consideration of a donation!

Donations (73)

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  • John Loster
    • $50 
    • 9 mos
  • Ryan Dooley
    • $25 
    • 1 yr
  • Albert White
    • $5 
    • 2 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $30 
    • 2 yrs
  • Laura Migas
    • $50 
    • 2 yrs
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Fundraising team (4)

Mary Lu Seidel
Raised $200 from 2 donations
Chicago, IL
Robert Marshall
Dio Aldridge
Team member
Tashona Marshall
Team member
This team raised $3,475 from 71 other donations.

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