North Lakeside Cultural Center Chronology

Vol. X No. 2 - SPRING/SUMMER 1999

Part 2 of “Ten Years at the North Lakeside Cultural Center”

By: Kathy Gemperle

1979 The Clerics of St. Viator announce their move to central offices in spring Arlington Heights. They offer the property, 3.3 acres of lakefront land, for sale for $3,000,000. Immediately, they receive an offer from the Lincoln Pratt Development Co. which wants to develop three high rises on the site.
ECC President, Bob Remer makes a proposal to the Chicago Park District to purchase the property for community use.
1980 Negotiations with the Chicago Park District continue. Community objections to the high rise development plus the interest of the CPD cause the would be developers to withdraw.
After two years of persistent effort by the community, the Chicago Park District purchases the parcel with a $2.3 million Community Development Block Grant.
1981 Despite owning the parcel, the CPD budget does not include funds for the development of the site. They claim that the deteriorated condition of the buildings makes this too costly.
A study of the two mansions is commissioned by the Chicago Park District. In summary it says that both buildings are of historic interest but they are only suitable for small gatherings and clubs.
1982 While the community and the Edgewater Community Council wait for the funds for the site development to be allocated they organize the Viatorian Committee to keep up with the development of the site. In order to get more community input as to possible uses of the site, a survey is developed and DePaul students help in the distribution of the survey questions. On Dec 21, 1982 the Chicago Park District announces that they will only restore the South Mansion. They plan to use part of the buildings for administrative offices. Plans were presented to justify this response which is not acceptable to the Viatorian Committee.
1983 The Viatorian Committee requests full use of both mansions. Later a meeting is held with the Chicago Park District’s General Superintendent, Ed Kelly and Alderman David Orr, the office of Congressman Yates and the Department of Planning. An agreement was reached that provided for the full use of the South Mansion and Coach House and that the community would look for funding to restore the North Mansion. Mayor Harold Washington and three commissioners tour the project. Construction estimates were sought through the Dept. of Planning and the AIA. The Viatorian committee begins planning approaches to foundations with assistance from Loyola University, Illinois Bell and the Edgewater Community Council, which acted as the non-profit organization on all the applications for funds.
1984 The Chicago Park District announces that the community has until July 15, 1984 to raise the funds for the rehab. Fundraising begins! The Chicago Park District presents plans for the renovation of the South Mansion and Coach House. The South mansion is scheduled to open in September 1981. On May 19, 1984 a special fundraising event is held by the Viatorian Committee at Sacred Heart School. $7,595 was raised. The Berger family contributed an additional $5,000. The moneys were earmarked to hire a Project Director/Fund raiser. Public officials begin writing letters of support for the project while the search for a Director continues. The Park District announces that the South Mansion will not open in September. October 1st, Bill Lederer is hired as Project Director. His chief task is Fundraising. Packets are created and assembled and sent out to foundations with the help of Sacred Heart Academy and Illinois Bell. The Chicago Park District extends the deadline to February 15, 1985. Solicitation of Chicago area foundations expands. Computerization of information begins.
1985 The fundraising efforts continue. The Chicago Park District extends the Deadline to June 30, 1985. On February 8, 1985 the North Lakeside Cultural Center is incorporated as a non-profit corporation in the State of Illinois. On March 27, 1985 the kick-off of a major fundraising campaign was at the Mansion with members of the Viatorian Committee of the Edgewater Community Council, ECC officers, Alderman David Orr and Alderman Marion Volini, Roula Alakiotou Borenstine and Kathy Osterman. The banner reads “Help us Save Your Mansion.” On May 30, 1985 The Chicago Park District issues an occupancy and use permit to the Viatorian Committee of the Edgewater Community Council which will facilitate applications for funding which are before the Planning Department of the City of Chicago.
1986 List of Funders growing: $5,000 from Sahara Coal Company Fund and $5,000 from Illinois Bell. Gifts from Walgreen’s, Continental Can, Arie and Ida Crown Memorial Fund, American National Bank and the Chauncey McCormick Fund totaling $17,500. The Berger Family gave “approximately $62,000.” Chicago Community Trust issues a Challenge Grant of $100,000 if the Center raises $150,000 by October of 1986. The North Lakeside Cultural Center receives a grant from the City of Chicago for $218,000. The process of hiring a contractor begins. Alton Construction is chosen. The South Mansion opens in July. A community reception is held and Mayor Harold Washington attends. A ceremony marks the beginning of construction with the laying of bricks. Fundraising efforts continue with the “Buy a Brick” campaign. The Chicago Park District holds an open house in the South Mission in July. Meetings begin to discuss the development of a site plan. Community members seek development of an outdoor performance area, a sunrise promenade, a children’s playground and a cafe in the north coach house and parking for 10-15 cars.
1987 Planning begins for the use of the space. The North Lakeside Cultural Center receives a planning grant for Program Development.
1988 As construction nears completion, a preview reception honoring Ron Berger is planned for September. Chicago Park District Superintendent Jessie Madison agrees to provide the replacement of the lights at the front door as a contribution to the restoration. October Open House and presentation of the first program offerings! The Door opens!