Old Town School to Break Ground on New Facility in August

By Laura Pearson | Thursday, June 17, 2010

Architectural rendering of the new facility's exterior. Image from Old Town School's official expansion project site.

The Old Town School of Folk Music is planning an August 5 groundbreaking on a new arts education facility at 4543 North Lincoln Avenue.

“We have the financial capacity to move forward,” said Eric Delli Bovi, Old Town School’s Director of External Affairs. Thus far, the school has raised $7.3 million for the expansion project, including $2 million from the State of Illinois. The school plans to raise the full $18 million needed, Delli Bovi said, but the bridge financing is in place for OTSFM to order steel and start construction. Eventually, the parking lot across the street from the school’s primary home in Lincoln Square will be the site of a 27,100 sq. foot facility, featuring new dance studios, state-of-the-art classrooms, and a 133-seat performance venue. Both the Lincoln Avenue facility and the classroom building at 909 W. Armitage will remain, but the new facility will allow OTSFM?the largest independent community arts school in the U.S.?some much-needed room to grow.

“We?ll have room for lots more students, new classes, and new friends,” wrote Executive Bau Graves on his blog (Bau’s Blaug). “For the little folk school that started out in a living room, this is the biggest of deals.”

The City Council’s Zoning Committee officially approved the expansion this past March. In addition to fundraising, the school has been working with the community on parking solutions, since the new facility will inevitably bring more traffic to Lincoln Square. To that end, OTSFM has conducted parking studies and met with community members, the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce, and Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th) to address the issue. Because the original size of the expansion was reduced, however, the zoning is such that the Old Town School is not required at this time to accommodate additional parking. “Parking solutions in the future are going to be a joint effort,” Delli Bovi said, in reference to working with the community. “But obviously the Old Town School is an active partner in ensuring plenty of parking.”

As the Old Town School expands, Graves hope to keep the focus on the school’s long commitment to arts education. On Bau’s Blaug, he wrote: “The glory of this new building is not about dollars raised or the details of the brick fa?ade. It is about what goes on in our classrooms and on our stage day after day, week after week.”

What’s going on next week: Old Town School starts its summer classes. Also ahead: The annual Chicago Folk and Roots Festival (presented by OTSFM) takes over Welles Park on July 10 and 11.

Stay tuned for further coverage of the expansion project.

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