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CHICAGO-Some may have laughed while Elzie L. Higginbottom continued to build in the Grand Boulevard community while other developers were exiting for greener pastures. Higginbottom, thanks to The Second City comedy troupe, will get at least one more last laugh in a $2.8-million project at 4650 S. King Dr.

Higginbottom’s East Lake Management and Development, LLC will pay the city’s $700,000 cost of acquiring the two-story, 20,000-sf brick building, which was recently appraised at $480,000. While the first floor will include new retail space, most of the second floor will be used by Second City as a 150-seat theater and classrooms to train African-American comics and improvisational performers.

“I think it will be a great improvement for that corner,” says Higginbottom, whose rehab is part of a 47th Street “Blues District,” a pet project of 3rd Ward Ald. Dorothy Tillman.

East Lake Management and Development is investing $350,000 of equity in the project, getting an $850,000 loan for the interior build-out and is applying for an Empowerment Zone loan at 1.1% interest, says senior development manager Yorell Groves.

Second City owner Andrew Alexander had been looking for a South Side venue to complement its Old Town main stage at 1616 N. Wells St. for more than a decade. His search for a location included a stop in Tillman’s office, where he was ultimately steered to the property across King Drive from another Higginbottom redevelopment project.

“Once she described her vision of what she wanted, it was the perfect place for us,” Alexander says.

The Grand Boulevard Retail Theatre Group, LLC, is expected to own the majority of the building. John Belushi, John Candy, Mike Myers, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner are among the star-studded Second City alumni from both the Chicago and Toronto companies. However, the Second City Bronzeville Comedy Theatre will be more than 50% owned by Second City African-American alumni, which includes producers, actors, directors and instructors.

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