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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Steep Theatre Plans To Buy Edgewater Building After Losing Previous Home To Development

Steep Theatre Company is planning to open a venue two block from its old Edgewater storefront, which is being replaced with an apartment building.

Steep Theatre is seeking to open in the former Christian Science Reading Room building at 1044 W. Berwyn Ave.
Courtesy Steep Theatre
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EDGEWATER — Steep Theatre will remain in Edgewater with plans to open a venue blocks from its previous location, which it lost to redevelopment.

Steep Theatre Company announced Wednesday it has signed an agreement to buy a building at 1044 W. Berwyn Ave. The spot — the former location of a Christian Science Reading Room — will be retrofitted to serve as Steep’s headquarters and performance space.

The venue is two blocks from Steep’s previous storefront at 1115 W. Berwyn Ave. Steep Theatre moved out of that location in September 2020 after the building was sold to make way for an apartment and retail development.

The search for a home sent Steep’s leaders across the city, but the company ultimately achieved its goal of staying in Edgewater, its co-founder said.

“It’s been a painstaking search that had us peeking in storefront windows all over the city,” Peter Moore, artistic director and co-founder of Steep, said in a statement. “But the idea of being anywhere other than Edgewater never sat right with us. We’re overjoyed to have the opportunity to put down permanent roots and build our new home in the neighborhood we call home.”

The move to the property at Berwyn and Kenmore avenues will require a rezoning so it can operate as a theater. An information meeting on the project will be held virtually 6 p.m. Feb. 17, Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said.

An open house and further community meetings to discuss the project will also be held, Osterman said.

Steep is hoping to close on the property this spring. After that, a capital campaign will be launched to fund the build-out of the venue. If all goes well, Steep will start hosting shows at the venue in 2023, Executive Director Kate Piatt-Eckert said.

Credit: Eric Allix Rogers/Chicago Architecture Center
Steep Theatre

Steep put on its first performances in 2001; two years later, the company opened a venue in Wrigleyville. Steep then moved to Edgewater in 2008. It opened a bar next to its theater, called The Boxcar, in 2018.

The company showcases plays involving intimate stories of everyday people that touch on larger societal issues. It’s known for producing the first United States productions of British and other international playwrights.

Prior to the pandemic, Steep routinely sold out its 55-seat theater during production runs. But like many performing arts organizations, Steep was forced to close during the pandemic. The company is planning a 2022 run at rented venues, according to Steep’s website.

At 3,500 square feet, the new location is roughly the size of Steep’s previous home.

The building sits on a 17,500-square-foot lot that includes parking and the opportunity for further expansion, Piatt-Eckert said. The space is “flexible” to allow for different configurations to fit Steep’s productions, and Steep will only need to perform “modest” renovations to house a theater venue, she said in a statement.

Credit: 2rz Architecture
MCZ Development is seeking to turn a single-story retail strip into an apartment building at Berwyn and Winthrop avenues.

The building Steep will inhabit previously served as a Christian Science reading room, which is a religious library run by the Church of Christ, Scientist. The site at Berwyn and Kenmore avenues housed the Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist, built in 1907, according to the Edgewater Historical Society.

The church building was demolished in 1979 and the church later built the reading room to serve congregants.

Replacing Steep’s previous home on Berwyn is a five-floor, mixed-use development with 77 apartments, 36 parking spots and ground-floor retail space. The project received local approval in July.

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