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Kanye’s Help Reviving The Avalon Regal Theater Could Be Good For Chicago

Kanye West made the announcement on Monday saying that he was officially moving back to Chicago and that he’s also working on an album with Chance The Rapper.  We were all wondering if this was really going to happen. Everyone knows that Kanye has been known to make quick decisions and change his mind later.  But, whether he stays permanently or simply chooses to begin spending more time in the area – it’s clear that Kanye believes he has work to do in Chicago, and it could be really helpful for the city.

As stated on Twitter, Kanye has already started planning the opening for a Yeezy office in the city. He also expressed an interest in teaching a course at the Art Institute of Chicago (where he received his Honorary Doctorate) as well as at the American Academy of Art.

If his ambitions don’t sound high enough, Kanye has also proclaimed his interest in helping with the restoration of the Avalon Regal Theater in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood. His plan? He wants to bring a Comedy tour to the city through the venue as a start in it’s restoration. If you’re not from Chicago, I’ll explain why the following tweet received over 2,200 retweets and why it could be a great move for both Kanye and the city.

We’re doing Chicago Comedy Jam. We’re going to restore the Regal Theatre — ye (@kanyewest) September 10, 2018

Because of the historical value of this project, Kanye’s assistance could be great for Chicago! The Avalon building (previously a historical movie theater) was later renamed as The New Regal Theater as the replacement of the original Regal Theater which was built in 1928.  That original theater once frequently housed performances by Nat “King” ColeCab CallowayLouis ArmstrongElla FitzgeraldSarah VaughanLena HorneDinah WashingtonMiles DavisSammy Davis Jr.Lionel HamptonDizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and many more. Aretha Franklin was even named the “Queen of Soul” during a performance in that original venue in the 60s. It took years after the original landmark was demolished, before the “New Regal Theater” was created as its replacement, but it has recently been dormant since 2010.

In 2013, there were rumors that Jay Z and Beyonce would be purchasing “The New Regal Theater”. However, according to the Chicago Sun Times, in 2014, a 33 year old South Side Chicago native and entrepreneur named Jerald Gary, purchased  the theater out of forclousure for $100,000. Jerald has since been trying to raise money to fix up the building. If Kanye were to partner with Jerald in continuing to revive this venue, it could bring many opportunities and much inspiration to the area.

The South side of Chicago mainly makes the news because of violence.  We rarely hear stories about the good that is happening there or about rich history of the area that some of it’s natives may not even be aware of. But, as stated on the theater’s website, Jerald Gary seeks to change that by re-opening “The Avalon Regal Theater” as the epicenter for Black entertainment in America and the repurposing of neighborhood structures as support spaces for media and technology.

“The South Side desperately needs a building like the Avalon Regal Theater as a solution to the violence plaguing Chicago’s communities and young people,” says Gary.  “This project would also serve as a community anchor by creating jobs, strengthening neighborhood arts non-profit organizations, inspiring youth creativity, and of course… hosting awesome concerts!”  – Jerald Gary

Gary recently gave the following statement in reply to Kanye’s recent tweet about wanting to help:

“I am thrilled to have Kanye’s support as I work to reopen this Landmark venue to the community and world,” the statement said. “His global impact and influence can bring much needed positive attention to Chicago’s South Shore community.”

Chicago is known for keeping historic landmarks in various areas. But, if left abandon for too long, some buildings are not able to remain. So, it’s honorable to see a local entrepreneur like Jerald Gary working hard to revive and preserve this historic venue. Gary recently told the Chicago Sun-Times that he has already poured “over $1 million” in getting the 2,250-seat theater back into shape. But he doesn’t want to throw any more of his own money into the project without finding community support — or a wealthy investor — first. The building is currently in great shape. He only needs $100,000 more to take care of some minor plumbing and electrical work, as well as some technology upgrades – all of which should take only weeks to complete.

Depending on how much Kanye is looking to assist, his help could be transformational for the community.  Some might even call it a wise investment. A lot of changes are currently taking place in the South Shore and nearby Woodlawn communities. Barak and Michelle Obama are building the “Obama Presidential Center there, and the new Tiger Woods Championship Golf Course will be built in that side of town as well.

Only time will tell what happens with Kanye and his involvement moving forward.  But, whether he moves to Chicago permanently or not, I’m definitely rooting for him to become more involved!

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