Funding sought to finish East Chicago Carnegie Arts Center

2012-02-06T00:00:00Z 2012-02-06T23:40:08Z Funding sought to finish East Chicago Carnegie Arts CenterBy Steve Zabroski Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 06, 2012 12:00 am  • 

EAST CHICAGO | Funding is being assembled to finally complete the transformation of a historical Indiana Harbor library building into a community arts center.

Though repairs to the exterior of the former Carnegie Library are done, at least another $2 million is needed for interior work, Redevelopment Director John Artis said.

Constructed in 1913 through a donation by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, one of two such libraries in East Chicago, the North Harbor facility on Grand Boulevard at 136th Street closed in 1983.

In 2005, a nonprofit association was formed to restore the landmark, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. BP North America, Safety-Kleen Oil Recovery Co., and Centier, Peoples, Harris and National City banks have signed on as partners.

A state-of-the-art theater was planned for the center's upper floor as part of the $4 million initiative, with classrooms and practice space for young musicians, dancers, painters and other graphic artists downstairs.

The project stalled in 2009 when "the funding campaign was not nearly as successful as we thought it would be," Artis said, but a renewed commitment from the city, which owns the building through its Redevelopment Commission, should get renovations back on track by spring.

Federal support through Community Development Block Grant funds is available, Artis said, and the brokering of historic tax credits to investors could generate much of the money needed.

Discussions with the Foundations of East Chicago for financial assistance are ongoing,  Artis said.

Final drawings for the interior work from architect James Smith, whose VRA Architects of Park Ridge, Ill., designed the restoration of the building's exterior, should be ready in March, Artis said, though any plans must be approved by state historical preservation officials.

The performing arts center is considered an important component of the city's sweeping North Harbor redevelopment plans, which include reconstruction of the Main Street-Broadway corridor and renovation of adjacent parks to encourage locating new homes and businesses in the area.

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