CHICAGO-Five years after moving to Chicago from New York, the world renowned Joffrey Ballet is putting down roots with plans to build a $24-million headquarters in the heart of the Downtown theatre district. Joffrey officials say the project will be one of the largest dance developments ever undertaken in the US.

“Over the past five years dance has started to build infrastructure on an large scale,” says Jack Lemmon, executive director at the Joffrey. “Ours will be one of the biggest.” Over the past three years, Lemmon says big dance facilities have been constructed for the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, the Boston Ballet and the Miami City Ballet.

While city officials are kicking in $4 million as part of Mayor Daley’s rejuvenation plan for the Downtown theatre district, the new Joffrey project will not be a performance facility. “This will be our new headquarters,” says Lemmon. The planned headquarters building is sorely needed as dancers are currently practicing is facilities that are unsuitable. “Some of studios have pillars in them, which you can imagine isn’t very practical,” says Lemmon.

The new facility will have five dance studios, the largest of which will replicate the size of the company’s performance stage. The rest of the facility will be dedicated to wardrobe, dressing, production and administration functions.

Commonwealth Edison is donating the $4.5 million building at 6 East Lake St., near the intersection of State and Lake Streets. The city’s funding will come in the form of a $4 million TIF, while Lemmon says the Joffrey is in the midst of a fund raising campaign to raise the rest of the money needed to start renovation of the structure. Architect Daniel Coffey, responsible for such theatre district rehabs as the Oriental and Chicago theatres, is designing the project.

The building is currently tenanted by a mix of fast food and low-end retail. Joffrey doesn’t plan on using the entire renovated building, which it will be offering for lease retail space at street level and some office space as well.

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