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26th annual Lunch with the Mayor: Karcher ‘a legacy project’

Mark Hoffmann owner Dinosaur Studio Tattoo talks about whit was like start his tattoo studio Waukegan during Waukegan MaStreet's Lunch

Mark Hoffmann, owner of Dinosaur Studio Tattoo, talks about what it was like to start his tattoo studio in Waukegan during Waukegan Main Street's Lunch with the Mayor.

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Updated: July 16, 2011 12:20AM



WAUKEGAN — The concept of fueling downtown redevelopment by positioning the city as an arts destination was a recurring theme at Monday’s 26th annual Lunch with the Mayor at the Genesee Theatre.

“Pompei is buried under ash, (but) their artwork remains,” said Mayor Robert Sabonjian after noting that one of the topics of discussion at a recent U.S. Council of Mayors forum in Chicago as that the arts are “vital to a community.”

Speaking briefly before a gathering of 192 members of the business community, Sabonjian added that he sees the proposed Artspace Projects’ renovation of the Karcher Hotel on Washington Street as critical for the city’s future.

“Artspace is going to be a legacy project,” said Sabonjian, noting that this is his response when he hears from people who ask “why are you spending money on that building” rather than on other possibilities.

After being introduced by Sabonjian, Artspace director of project development Heidi Kurtze again expressed confidence that the $12.5 million renovation will secure the final 5 percent of funding from private sources and start work this summer.

“Our office has been amazed at the $5, $10 and $25 checks, and notes to me (saying) ‘I can’t contribute any money, but I want to get involved, and how can I help?’” Kurtze said. “It’s really been remarkable. We do not always see that kind of commitment and interest and involvement in every community we work in.

“You have the groundwork here for an incredibly successful project. We look forward to being your partner. You should see construction starting by the end of the summer, and I look forward to being back here next summer to announce the grand opening of the Karcher Artspace Lofts.”

The Artspace plan calls for 36 live/work units for artists, a classification that Kurtze described as including both visual artists and such categories as dancers, theatre artists and performing artists.

She also said that Artspace will look to avoid the “SoHo” effect, a term named for the Manhattan neighborhood where redevelopment drove up rents and forced out artists. According to Kurtze, Karcher rents would be $300 to $850 per month and would “only be allowed to increase gradually with inflation over 30 years.”

“The rent and all of the rest of the underwriting for the project is self-sustaining,” she said. “Our buildings across the country are 100 percent occupied with waiting lists in the hundreds, if not thousands.”

Mary Clare Jakes of Waukegan Main Street, which hosted the luncheon, said she feels the Karcher project is one element of the city’s bid to develop something “different than any place people will go to.”

“One of our objectives is to support that project in any way possible,” Jakes said. “We know it’s going to become a reality — we just want to make sure it becomes a reality sooner rather than later.

“The arts isn’t just something you come and look at,” she added. “(It’s) about development.”



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