Chicago Filmmakers to buy city’s landmark firehouse

Chicago Filmmakers’ new home at Ridge and Clark

Executive director Brenda Webb’s dream of having a permanent home for Chicago Filmmakers became a reality when the city chose it, out of several competitive arts and community groups, to buy and renovate an abandoned city-owned landmark firehouse.

Chicago Filmmakers would buy the 5,892-sq. ft. firehouse for $36,000 and commit over $600,000 towards renovation, no small task as the firehouse has been unoccupied since firefighters moved out 10 years ago.

The city’s sale of the property should be approved by the City Council next spring and construction would begin immediately thereafter.

“Owning our own building is a dream for us. We are thrilled and honored we were chosen,” said Webb, who has head Chicago Filmmakers since 1978. Chicago Filmmakers has leased the second floor of 5243 N. Clark since 1996 to accommodate all of its programs and offices.

“We want the firehouse to be seen as a community resource,” she said.

The city put a call out for proposals last spring to art-related groups over the summer.  Chicago Filmmakers had to put up $36,000 in earnest money, or 10% of the appraised value, plus pay for architectural plans.  Renovation will cost $600,000, which the organization will have to raise.

Once the renovation is completed, estimated taking 8 to 12 months, Chicago Filmmakers will host its established weekly screenings, the annual Onion City experimental film and Reeling: LGBT festivals and initiate partnerships with neighborhood schools.

When the sale is completed, plans call for the basement, first and second floors to be entirely rehabbed, said James Gorski, Chicago Filmmakers’ architect.  The basement would be mostly used for storage.  The first floor would be converted into a 75 to 99 seat screening room and the second floor used for classrooms.

An existing parking lot includes 15 spaces.