Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Et tu, Muntu? Another Local Outfit Loses Millions

posted by chicago pop

[source: Chicago Tribune, April 21, 2010,0,3989679.story]

47th Street: Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

Today's Tribune reports that higher-ups are finally starting to wonder what ever happened to Muntu's performing arts center that was supposed to go up on 47th Street eight years after it received millions in grants and pledges and the official go-ahead.

Eight years ago, the nonprofit Muntu Dance Theatre secured more than $6 million in city and state grants, rights to the two-acre property for $1, and cash donations from the likes of ComEd and Boeing to build a $15 million performing arts center.

At the time, the project came with the blessings of local leaders who hoped to not only turn around the fortunes of an area littered with liquor stores and boarded-up buildings, but help restore a piece of Bronzeville's historic luster.

But Muntu could not demonstrate it could pay for the project, leading the city to later rescind its $1.75 million grant offer, said Pete Scales, spokesman for the city's budget office. Now the state has called a special meeting Wednesday to see what happened to the $4.5 million it granted the dance company. [video clip here]

It will be interesting to learn how this latest of Hyde Park Kenwood white elephants came about. For now, it makes a sad bookend with the old Co-Op space a few blocks to the east. Odds are, Muntu's story may wind up sounding a lot like the sad history of the Co-Op's 47th Street branch.

Pity Zaleski and Horvath Market Cafe next door, sandwiched between this white elephant to their west, and the vacant lot + billboard = cash machine for whoever owns the lot to the east.


Anonymous said...

This is the property Z&H wanted to turn into an outdoor eatery. They were rejected out of hand as apparently the current owner is clinging to his vacant lot like grim death.

I'm assuming now that Z&H will be expanding to 57th they won't be interested in their outdoor eatery anymore. So, we get to look at another dead lot indefinitely.

mchinand said...

Any news on when Michael's Fresh Market is going to open in the old 47th St. Co-op space?

Elizabeth Fama said...


The Muntu site is west of the building complex that houses Z&H, whereas the parking lot directly to the east (with the Clear Channel billboard that enjoys something like a 99-year lease from the lot's owner) is what Z&H wanted to rent, in part to plant vegetables to sell in the store.

The Muntu site causes a reduction in parking at Z&H, because of (unnecessary) concrete barricades in the street, which are there to form a temporary sidewalk even though there's plenty of room for a sidewalk next to the construction fence.

Urban Domestic Goddess said...

Shoot, if nothing else, they could level this mess and turn it into a paid parking lot. Z&H and Little Black Pearl both certainly could use the space, since street parking is so tight over there. Not that I'm a fan of parking lots, but it would be better than the current eyesore. I hate walking past it.

rdb said...

As a North Kenwood resident, the Muntu debacle site really is the worst (but not the only) blotch on an otherwise great neighborhood. I don't wish Muntu any ill, although if they've committed fraud, I won't feel much sympathy for them, either. I think the larger story here is WHY these eyesores drag on SO LONG around here. You look at how long it took Z&H to open, how long it's taking Michael's Market to get running, how long property remains vacant, it's hard not to conclude that the something, the Conservation district, the Alderman and/or the city are more problem than partner in re-development. It's bad, even compared to the glacial pace in Hyde Park proper, and it was bad even before the bottom fell out of the economy. I realize NK doesn't have the critical mass that Hyde Park does, but why not open up vacant properties to concerns like the Op-Shop, or a farmer's market? NK is a great little neighborhood, but right now it's a bedroom community, with a less convenient location than our tony South Kenwood neighbors.