BRIDGEPORT — It’s been 33 years since the Ramova Theatre closed its doors, but a long-sought revival of the space is in the works and features some neighborhood heavyweights, including The Duck Inn chef-owner Kevin Hickey.
Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11th) will share plans to build a live entertainment venue, restaurant and brewery inside the theater and the adjoining former Ramova Grill, 3516-3522 S. Halsted St., at a meeting later this month.
Thompson’s office declined to answer further questions about the project ahead of the meeting.
Hickey confirmed he was involved with the plan, but would not elaborate.
“We’ll share as much as we can on Tuesday night with the community meeting,” Hickey said. “Outside of that, we’re in the middle of a process, and we don’t want to get out ahead of the city or the alderman.”
But for neighbors like Maureen Sullivan, redeveloping the Ramova Theatre would be a welcome sign of investment in the Halsted Street corridor that has struggled to retain businesses, despite its proximity to Sox Park and a healthy interest in residential properties, she said.
Sullivan likens the 90-year-old venue to the Uptown Theatre — on the verge of its own renovation — and the Music Box Theatre in Lakeview, which was restored in 1983 and has made its mark as a leading venue for independent and foreign films in the city. In Pilsen, Thalia Hall draws crowds to sold-out concerts regularly, and the Ramova holds just as much potential, she said.
“The area is ripe for this,” said Sullivan, a real estate agent and, along with her late husband, organizer of the Save the Ramova Theatre efforts. “But we should make sure we’re not being sold something that’s not compatible.”
Hickey’s involvement is a promising sign, said Sullivan, as the chef grew up in Bridgeport and continues to live in the neighborhood near his Michelin-recommended restaurant, 2701 S. Eleanor St.
But after years of waiting, Sullivan remains cautiously optimistic.
“We’ve had a lot of false starts,” she said. “The building needs a ton of work, but the potential is amazing.”
As a child in the 1970s, Sullivan would spend her whole day at the movie theater, grabbing a slice of pizza from a nearby Sicilian bakery in between back-to-back screenings. Plenty of Bridgeport residents have similar fond memories of the theater, she said.
“The crabbiest curmudgeon you’ve ever met gets starry-eyed when you start talking about the Ramova,” she said. “That’s something money can’t buy.”
Ald. Thompson will share more details at 6 p.m. Nov. 19 meeting at Nativity of Our Lord Church, 652 W. 37th St.
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Want to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation? Thanks to NewsMatch 2019, your donation will be doubled through Dec. 31. Donate here.