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Bronzeville’s Palmer Mansion Will Become Obsidian Collection Archive, Coworking For Black Creators

City Council also approved $6 million for the construction of the much-anticipated Lillian Marcie Center for the Performing Arts.

The Lu and Jorja Palmer Mansion, 3654 S. King Drive, on March 2, 2021.
Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
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GRAND BOULEVARD — Two ambitious Bronzeville projects are moving forward after receiving City Council backing Wednesday.

The Obsidian Collection received zoning approval to convert the historical Palmer mansion at 3654 S. King Drive into a digital archive center and members-only coworking hub for Black journalists and creators. 

The council also approved $6 million in tax-increment financing to support the construction of the Lillian Marcie Center for the Performing Arts, 4343 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

Obsidian Collection founder Angela Ford is behind the $3.8 million plan for the famed Lu and Jorja Palmer mansion, which landed on Preservation Chicago’s “Most Endangered Buildings” list four years ago after falling into disrepair.

Completed in 1888 for Justice D. Harry Hammer, the mansion was bought by local journalist Lu Palmer and his wife, Jorja, in 1976. Palmer remained in the house until his death in 2004.

Ford wants to transform the mansion into a three-story facility where members can enjoy small bites and non-alcoholic beverages. Two apartments on the top floor would serve visiting scholars, and the space would host events like film screenings and panel discussions, Ford said at a community meeting earlier this year.

Credit: Provided.
A rendering of the Lillian Marcie Center for Performing Arts.

Several miles away, the Lillian Marcie Center is being built on the site of an old Marshall Field warehouse built in 1915.

The 22,500-square-foot, two-story space is the centerpiece of a larger initiative that includes plans for a Black performing arts museum, studio space, a restaurant and jazz club.

The center is planned to have a 350-seat, multi-level auditorium and a 100-seat space for more intimate performances, along with rehearsal space, dressing rooms and offices. An outdoor gathering area would offer neighbors space to meet, officials have said.

That project is being helmed by Chicago native and Hollywood actor Harry Lennix, who named the venue for his mother and high school principal, respectively.

Construction is estimated to cost $25 million. The state is providing funding via a grant from the Build Illinois Bond Fund

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