How did saving this place impact people in your community?
Kirk Albinson, The Community Builders
The Aurora Arts Center development is aptly named for its central role in advancing a thoughtfully planned mixed use, mixed income, community revitalization effort, impacting the people of Aurora in very real ways. The presence of the arts center is dramatically improving the quality of life, economic opportunity and regional interest in Downtown Aurora. The development focuses on providing high quality arts education services for the community, expanding the access and delivery of performing arts, providing quality affordable housing options geared specifically for artists and generating significant job opportunities within the revitalizing downtown market.
Prior to completion of the project, no artistic education services existed in Aurora, even though the city is the second largest in Illinois. Access was only one piece of the equation. Economic barriers proved to be real, too, in a city with nearly 20% of the residents living below the poverty level. The Paramount School for the Arts makes a deliberate effort to provide affordable arts education services to the greater community. A portion of the funds raised for the center are designated for scholarships for children who cannot afford classes. Moreover, the school has bilingual teachers to encourage enrollment from a 41% Hispanic population in Aurora. Classes are available for toddlers to adults and senior citizens.
The development includes a housing component, providing 38 affordable apartments with an artist preference on the upper floors of the Aurora Arts Center. The apartments at the Aurora Arts Center are completely rented, attracting working artists from throughout Chicagoland in search of a supportive atmosphere and affordable rents. The new residents and students of the arts school will further activate the nearby area stimulating the local economy beyond the seasonal theater productions.
The Aurora Arts Center serves as job creator in the community, generating well-paying positions in arts education services and the retail/dining service industry. The expansion of rehearsal facilities and the construction of the school lead to 25 full-time jobs and over 120 part time jobs. Workers are from a variety of creative professions. Additionally, the restaurant employs over 85 people. Many of the new jobs created are at income levels that are higher than the minimum wage but still align with the affordability requirements of the apartments in the upper floors of the development.
While these tangible statistics are impressive, they do not capture the intangible benefits derived from exposure of a diverse cross-section of Aurora’s population to new forms of music, movement and theater.
(Photo Credit Darris Harris)