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Plans fall through for TimeLine’s move to Trumbull School

5200 N. Ashland

Built in 1908. Designed by Dwight Perkins.

TimeLine Theatre’s long-nurtured plans to move from its current home in the annex of a Lake View church to a mixed-use redevelopment of the Lyman Trumbull Elementary School in Andersonville have fallen apart.

The thriving theater company, at 615 W. Wellington, confirmed Friday that it has ended its involvement with developer Svigos Asset Management’s project to renovate the school.

TimeLine Theatre’s long-nurtured plans to move from its current home in the annex of a church at 615 W. Wellington in the Lake View neighborhood, to a mixed-use redevelopment of the Lyman Trumbull Elementary School at Foster and Ashland in the Andersonville neighborhood, have fallen apart.

In Aug. 2015 it was announced that Svigos had won the bid process to purchase Trumbull from Chicago’s Board of Education, and intended to partner with TimeLine Theatre to develop a mixed-use project featuring a combination of residential components and a new home for TimeLine.

TimeLine Theatre facade in Lake View. (Photo: Courtesy of TimeLine Theatre)

TimeLine Theatre facade in Lake View. (Photo: Courtesy of TimeLine Theatre)

But in a prepared statement issued Friday, TimeLine board president John M. Sirek explained: “TimeLine embarked on a complex, year-long collaboration to develop financial and architectural plans that could meet both the theater’s artistic and operational needs as well as the developer’s needs, which included pursuing federal historic preservation tax credits. After extensive and exhaustive work, it has become clear that there is an inherent conflict between what renovations are allowed in order to meet the requirements related to the developer’s tax credits, and what renovations are essential to meet TimeLine’s goal of building a flexible and intimate home that supports the technical and audience engagement needs of our professional theater.”

“We’re disappointed, because we believe that Trumbull could have been an ideal new home for TimeLine, but this partnership was not the right fit,” said TimeLine artistic director PJ Powers. “We relished the idea of bringing our mission of exploring history to life through the revitalization of a historic building, as well as creating a new community gathering place in the vibrant Andersonville neighborhood.”

“TimeLine Theatre plans to be a vital contributor to the cultural life of Chicago for a very long time, and we are determined to find a new home that will support that,” said the theater’s managing director, Elizabeth K. Auman. “Our company has built a reputation for making sound business decisions that have allowed us to flourish into our current 20th anniversary season. It became clear that the decision to end our involvement with this project for Trumbull School, while difficult, is the right one for TimeLine in the long term.”

TimeLine Theatre and its board of directors noted that they were grateful to Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40th) and to the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development “for their thoughtful guidance and support throughout this process.” And they noted: “Looking ahead, TimeLine is steadfast in its commitment to identifying a new home that can support its mission and growing audience well into the future. The company’s focus now turns to working with all of its supporters to find the next opportunity that will make that vision for a new home a reality.”

O’Connor issued a statement about the situation noting: “This is not a reflection on the effort put forth by any party. The land-marking process for the building added complication to the project that simply made it too difficult for Timeline to make Trumbull their home. I wish Timeline the best in finding the right space moving forward.

Legally, Svigos remains the contract purchaser of Trumbull School, which is located at Foster and Ashland. The Board of Education has set a date toward the end of October for Svigos to close on the Trumbull property.

In the meantime, Svigos is working diligently to find a new theater partner for the space.”