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CircEsteem’s Uptown Headquarters Gets $5 Million For Renovation With City Council Approval

The circus arts nonprofit plans to renovate its Sheridan Road building into a performing arts center. The project required the removal of a popular mural.

Renderings show CircEsteem's plans to add windows to the facade of its Sheridan Road headquarters.
Courtesy CircEsteem
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UPTOWN — The renovation of CircEsteem’s Uptown headquarters is moving forward after the City Council approved $5 million for the project Wednesday.

The circus arts nonprofit is planning a massive overhaul of its complex at 4730 N. Sheridan Road, the Lakeside Theater building that opened in 1914 as a movie house.

Plans call for a renovation of the building and an expansion of its performing arts hub and youth center. The project received $5 million from the city through a community development grant and through tax-incremental financing, which were approved Wednesday by the City Council.

CircEsteem decided to remove an expansive mosaic mural from its building’s facade to renovate the building.

The mural, titled “I Will …,” was installed in 2006 under the building’s previous owner and with help from neighborhood kids. It covers much of the front facade.

The organization plans to add windows to the building’s facade, similar to how it looked in its earliest days. That required the removal of the mural, created by artist Tracy Van Duinen.

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
Circusteem will take down and repurpose the “I Will” mural that lines the front of its Uptown headquarters.

The decision to remove the mural was not an easy one, said Patty Aikonedo, director of community outreach at CircEsteem. But it will help the group restore its building to its 1910s movie-house roots while creating a state-of-the-art performance center and neighborhood attraction, she said.

RELATED: Massive Mosaic Mural On Uptown’s Lakeside Theater Building Coming Down As Nonprofit Plans Renovation

“It doesn’t entirely encapsulate the excitement and energy going on in CircEsteem,” Aikonedo said of the building’s facade. “We want the community to know what is going on behind the scenes at CircEsteem, to see how talented our kids are.”

The mural started to come down Saturday, with community members invited to help and even bring home portions.

Portions will be repurposed in some to-be-determined fashion in the renovated facility, Aikonedo said.

Credit: Courtesy CircEsteem
The Lakeside Theater was built in 1914, the first movie theater to open in Uptown.

CircEsteem, founded in 2001, helps kids learn self-esteem and artistic expression through circus arts. It holds after-school programs and workshops throughout the city, as well as programs and performances from its Sheridan Road headquarters.

For most of its existence, CircEsteem shared space in the building at 4730 N. Sheridan Road with youth empowerment agency Alternatives Inc. Thanks to an anonymous donation, CircEsteem was able to buy the building from Alternatives in August.

CircEsteem learned last summer it would receive a community grant from the city to renovate its building. The group will try to raise $2.2 million in a capital campaign to support the remainder of the project, city records show.

The renovated building is slated to debut summer 2024.

“One of our values is making CircEsteem a hub, a safe space in the community,” Aikonedo said. The building “is going to be a way for us to a pulse in the Uptown community.”

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