Forty-eighth Ward Alderman Harry Osterman, who himself grew up in the neighborhood, made a commitment to ensuring that the building be redeveloped for the benefit of the local community. Based on his vision that the firehouse be repurposed for cultural, culinary, or recreational use, the City issued a Request for Proposals in 2013. After consideration of multiple redevelopment plans submitted to the City, Chicago Filmmakers' proposal was chosen by the Chicago Plan Commission and approved by City Council in 2014.
"On behalf of our entire Edgewater community," stated Ald. Osterman, "I'm very excited that Chicago Filmmakers will breathe new life into the firehouse on Ridge Ave. We look forward to many years of community partnership."
With the purchase now complete, renovation of the firehouse is planned to begin in March and is expected to take seven to eight months. The scope of work will include all new plumbing, electrical, HVAC, sewer and water lines, as well as installation of an elevator to ensure that the building is fully accessible. The facility will include classrooms and a multipurpose room where screenings and events will be held. Chicago Filmmakers has been working with the award-winning architectural firm Bureau of Architecture and Design on the redesign of the space and Finnegan Development will complete the build out. Chicago Filmmakers has also benefitted from the generous pro bono services of the law firm Holland & Knight. The construction is budgeted at $1 million.
Chicago Filmmakers will begin an ambitious fundraising campaign to cover the costs of the extensive renovations. "We have a lot of work to do in the new space, and a lot of money to raise," says Brenda Webb, Chicago Filmmakers' Executive Director, "but this organization and the people who support it definitely have the passion and determination to help us reach our goal."
So far, Chicago Filmmakers has raised $300,000 through its board of directors, as well as an additional matching challenge grant, which will match all individual contributions dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $100,000. The organization looks to raise the remainder of its $1 million dollar budget over the next year. With a goal to inhabit the firehouse by the end of the year, the need for funds is imminent and Chicago Filmmakers plans to launch a crowd-funding campaign this Spring.
During the renovations, the organization plans to continue its regular programming in its existing space at 5243 N. Clark Street in Andersonville with screenings, classes, youth programs, and filmmaker events, as well as the launch of next month's 27th Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival and the fall production of Reeling: The 34th Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival.
"Maintaining our normal full slate of programs, while also fundraising for the firehouse and undertaking construction is going to make this a very busy year for us," Webb continues, "but it's my hope that our amazing community of students, filmmakers, and audiences will celebrate with us and support us through this exciting new chapter in our organization's history."