New Regal Theater Renovation Project Nears Completion, Kickstarter Campaign Underway
Deborah Bayliss | 4/8/2015, 2:08 p.m.
The New Regal Theater, an historic south side structure purchased for $100,000 in 2014 by then 29-year-old real estate investor, Jerald Gary, is now entering its final renovation phases, bringing the famed venue close to a grand re-opening.
Now 30, Gary, a Chicago native, licensed private pilot, drummer and president of Community Capital Investment Partners (CCIP) spoke to the Chicago Citizen Newspaper last year about his plans for the building located at 1641 E. 79th St., that he hopes will spur neighborhood revitalization, saying, “We want to make the theater into something that is focused on providing things that are cultural and all things community focused. I think there is an opportunity to turn this area into a destination area, the center of which can be the Regal Theater to create a vibrant micro economy around this area that can help reinforce 79th Street as a commercial corridor and correspond with the economic activity that’s occurring towards the lake.”
Gary points to revitalization efforts in cities such as Pittsburgh and Columbus, OH as the blueprint for success. Those cities invested in the cultural arts as a means to spark economic recovery and both now enjoy booming arts districts, bolstered ancillary businesses, such as restaurants, bars, galleries, real estate development and other tourism draws.
“We also plan to make the New Regal Theater an active community center – there is a significant elderly population in the neighborhood that we will introduce programming for, and we plan to create opportunities for the city’s youth to come learn about music and the arts,” he explained. “A successful Kickstarter campaign can help us reach these goals more quickly.
Following a renovation overhaul, the theater is now in its final renovation stage, with plumbing and electrical still to be upgraded, along with its audio and visual capabilities. Also, portions of the building’s near-100 year old terra cotta exterior will be replaced.
Seeking help with the final renovations, CCIP launched a kickstarter campaign at www.kickstarter.com/projects/chicagoregaltheater/resurrecting-the-legendary-new-regal-theater, aimed at raising $100,000 towards the finishing touches – a small fraction of the project’s $5 million total budget. The campaign is not only designed to drive donations to quicken the theater’s return, but to also raise awareness of the New Regal Theater’s impending reopening in Chicago and abroad.
A successful Kickstarter campaign, Gary added, could help the theater begin its programming within a few months. He explained that if the New Regal Theater can expedite its opening, driven by investment from civic and local leaders, the Southshore neighborhood will be that much closer to a more vibrant and safe neighborhood. Also, an earlier opening in 2015 will more quickly bring the area employment opportunities.
Gary is planning the venue's first round of programming, a series of kickoff events, including concerts and community-enriching activities, are being set for the remainder of 2015. An opening date for a fully scheduled New Regal Theater is set for some time in 2016.
In its heyday, the 2,250- seat New Regal Theater was the crown jewel of the Chicago’s music scene. It was a necessary tour stop for blues, rock and jazz giants, such as James Brown, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington and Diana Ross, among many other legends. When it opened in 1927, the theater was one of the country’s most ornate movie houses – the original silver screen still hangs there today.
The theater’s prime location at the intersection of four major arteries (79th St., South Chicago Ave., Stony Island Ave. and the Chicago Skyway) also offers the potential for economic revitalization to spread to other neighborhoods on Chicago’s Southside.