Actor with Chicago roots plans South Side performance space

Actor Harry Lennix III, who stars on “The Blacklist” TV show, is pushing forward a dream he says will honor his Chicago roots: to build a performing arts center for African-American culture in the South Side.

Lennix submitted a zoning proposal to take over a two-story warehouse at 4343 S. Cottage Grove Ave. Partnering with Chicago developer Keith Giles and entrepreneur Michael Wordlaw, Lennix would transform the former Marshall Field warehouse into a 350-seat theater with a smaller performance space of around 100 seats.

The place is said to have a connection with Chicago public schools. “I am a former CPS teacher. I taught music there, ”Lennix said. The Northwestern University graduate was noticed here at the Goodman Theater and elsewhere before working in New York and Los Angeles.

“My fundamental dream is to bring a performing arts space to the South Side of Chicago. He doesn’t have that, ”he said on a phone call between takes of“ The Blacklist ”.

Harry lennix iii
AFP via Getty Images

It would be called the Lillian Marcie Center, a reference to his mother, Lillian, and a mentor, Marcella “Marcie” Gillie on the south side. Lennix said he raised about 60% of the funds needed for a roughly $ 20 million project.

Giles, who has been active in the South Loop and the Near South Side for a long time, said he hoped to start construction on the building in early 2021 and complete the project around a year later. He said he was working on federal, state and municipal tax credits and program incentives.

In July, the city’s Community Development Commission approved a $ 3 million grant for the project as part of tax increase funding.

The 15,000 square foot building is a twin of the Briar Street Theater, 3133 N. Broadway, which itself has undergone a makeover. The home of the longtime Blue Man Group show is listed as a former stable for Marshall Field & Co horses.

The South Side site would house a museum, Lennix said, while also offering performances of “dance, theater, opera, spoken word, you name it.” He enlisted the help of Chicago firm Nia Architects for help.

The zoning proposal, presented to city council on Tuesday, would allow the conversion to a theater, with a lounge and a rooftop terrace for events. Investors want a special use permit to provide 45 parking spaces on a neighboring lot.

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