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March 28, 2001

$2 Million in Illinois FIRST Funding for Medinah Temple Renovation

CHICAGO -- Governor George H. Ryan announced today that he is releasing $2 million in Illinois FIRST funding to help with the renovation of the historic downtown block that contains the Medinah Temple building and the Tree Studios.

Purchasing the landmark site is the first step in a comprehensive redevelopment of the block that will maintain the area's historic character and create residential, retail and office space in the existing buildings anchored by the first-ever Bloomingdale's Home Store. The City of Chicago is providing more than $12 million in subsidies for the $63 million project, which is being developed by a private firm, Historic Preservation Associates.

This Illinois FIRST grant was initiated by Senate President James "Pate" Philip, R-Wood Dale.

"This project will preserve a true Chicago landmark for future generations and help continue the economic boom in the River North area," Ryan said. "I commend Senator Philip, the Shriners, the City of Chicago and the developers for putting together this innovative way to save the Medinah Temple and the Tree Studios.

The renovation plan calls for the restoration of the Temple's missing "onion" domes as well as replacements of missing stained glass, cornices and railings. The Temple will be converted into a four-story retail space for Bloomingdale's that will include an atrium to allow viewing of the central dome.

The Trees Studios' ground floor will be retail space, with the upper floors dedicated to artists' studios and art-related businesses -- the building's long-time use. A quarter of the space on the upper floors will be made available to artists for residences at below-market rental rates. Another portion of the complex will be converted to commercial office space.

The Medinah Temple, built in 1912, has long served as the Chicago headquarters of the Shriners, as well as host to numerous cultural and civic functions. The Tree Studios, built in 1894, are the oldest existing buildings in the country constructed specifically as artists' studios that are still used by artists. The studios help anchor and maintain Chicago's strong position in the arts.

The block is bordered by State, Ontario and Ohio streets, as well as Wabash Avenue.

Prior to the intervention of Historic Preservation Associates, initial plans called for the demolition of the Temple and the studios to make way for a mixed-use high rise building.


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