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CHICAGO-Having outgrown their quarters in another Uptown location, Black Ensemble Theater is planning to build a 299-seat performing arts center at 4440-50 N. Clark St. The city is offering up to $5.9 million in tax increment financing to help the 30-year-old group build the $13.2-million venue.

Black Ensemble Theater will trade in its headquarters at 4520 N. Beacon St. for a three-story building at the southwest corner of Clark Street and Sunnyside Avenue, which is expected to be completed by spring 2007, executive director Jackie Taylor tells GlobeSt.com. Pepper Construction is general contractor for the project, which in addition to a main stage, includes a 150-seat practice theater on the second and third floors as well as a small restaurant, says department of planning and development project manager Christopher Jang.

The only professional African-American theater company on the North Side, Black Ensemble Theater draws 70,000 viewers a year to its performances. It gives 3,000 tickets a year away to local organizations at discount rates, an effort it will double as part of its deal with the city. Programs at the Black Ensemble Theater serve about 2,000 local students.

Designed by John Morris, architect on other projects including the Looking Glass and Steppenwolf theaters, has designed a building with a glass curtain wall along Clark Street and an environmentally-friendly “green roof” covering 69% of the building’s top. The building will replace a one-story commercial building that has been vacant for three years.

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