Photo: Chicago Tribune
Jerald Gary bought a 25,000 seat theater in 2014 – the Avalon Regal Theater, the largest theater in the Southside of Chicago. Located at the juncture of 79th Street, Stony Island and South Chicago Avenue, the Regal theater was active for over 75 years since its opening in 1927. The building served as performance and movie theater until it closed during the late 1970s; it served as a church for a brief period after that. Designed by architect John Eberson in a Moorish Revival style, the theater reopened once more as performing arts venue in 1987, and was renamed the New Regal Theater, in honor of the former Regal Theater in Bronzeville that was demolished. It received its Chicago landmark status in 1992, and after a couple attempts of revitalization by a few different owners, the theater finally foreclosed in 2011.
Jerald created the Regal Foundation in 2014 when he purchased the theater, and since been exploring ways to revitalize it. In addition to this effort, he has expanded this vision into the creation of the Avalon Regal Theater (ART) District – an Arts and Innovation Corridor capitalizing on its strategic location next the Chicago Skyway which in this area has a estimated commercial demand of $2 billion. This vision for the ART District includes a an entertainment district, arts academy, commercial hub and residential development. Jerald has been especially invested in studying alternative community-driven platforms for investment or equity crowdfunding for this projects like this, and understanding how current investment legal frameworks and regulations are allowing for non accredited investors to invest in private offerings – such as the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act that was approved in 2016.
Photo: Regal Foundation
Although the Avalon Regal Theater is such a significant piece of architecture and has tremendous potential for redevelopment, like many other landmarks has yet to figure out a funding model for reinvestment. It was interesting to discuss financial mechanism that are being developed, especially to support redevelopment in underserved communities. One of the recent ones being the Opportunity Zones – ”those in economically-distressed communities, designed by states and territories certified by the U.S. Treasury Department, in which certain types of investments may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.” As the Regal Foundation continues exploring resources for real estate reinvestment, they are also thinking about creative features and forging partnerships that can enable the Regal Theater to become a unique destination. One of this features is the holographic performances through a partnership with Holograms USA – early ideas include shows by celebrities such as Billie Holiday, James Brown, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Nat King Cole, Stevie Wonder, among others who once performed there.
As we continue to advance our work this Fall, this project is especially relevant for the team working on the Kehrein Center for the Arts in Austin neighborhood.