Bridgeport Residents Anticipate Return of the Ramova Theatre Courtesy of Star-Studded Ownership Group

(Produced by Nicole Cardos)

The historic Ramova Theatre has new owners with big plans.

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Earlier this month, it was announced that the theater was under new ownership, as Chicago’s Chance the Rapper and Jennifer Hudson partnered with Quincy Jones and developer Tyler Nevius as the Bridgeport theater’s new ownership group.

Nevius purchased the building and the adjacent lot from the city back in 2017 for just $1. In its prime, the Ramova Theatre was known to be a single screen movie theater before closing in 1985. The new ownership group plans to remodel the venue to include a 1,500-seat live music space, in addition to a taproom and grill in partnership with New York-based Other Half Brewing, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Bridgeport has long been home to generations of city employees, police officers, firefighters and other working class Chicagoans. Some residents have expressed concern that the family-oriented neighborhood won’t be receptive to the changes that could come as a result of the theater’s revival. At the same time, others are eager for a live music venue on the South Side and an opportunity to showcase arts and culture.  

“My family is from the neighborhood originally. I’ve lived here for 11 years,” says a Bridgeport resident who opted to not share her name. “My parents remember going to it, my cousins remember going to it as a movie theater. It’s definitely something people are excited about it. Bridgeport needs a rejuvenation. Especially as you get further down South Halsted.”

At the same time, the residents says change can be hard for some in the neighborhood. 

“It’s hard to change people’s minds about what historically Bridgeport has always been associated with. That’s still difficult for older generations that have lived here for a long time to swallow,” she said. “Understanding that you can’t keep this hood in a bubble as much as you would want to. Things have to change if you want people to live here and new businesses to open, and the community to thrive in different ways. I think doing that with the arts is always going to be a better approach. That’s what the humanities is for, bringing people together.”

Read More: A Look Inside Bridgeport’s Ramova Theatre Ahead of Proposed Renovation

Benjamin Arguelles of DZ Records moved to the neighborhood a little more than a year ago. 

“I’ve been saying for a long time that the South Side needs more music venues and that there aren’t enough people from Chicago coming back to give back, so I’m happy Chance and Jennifer Hudson and Quincy Jones purchased it,” Arguelles said. “I do a lot with the music industry, so this is very close to me.”

Annabelle Dacuycuy, a Tinley Park resident who frequents the neighborhood because it’s where family resides, agrees. 

“I think it’s important to keep buildings that already within existence here because they have a tremendous amount of history,” Dacuycuy says. “Bridgeport is known for Comiskey Park, and we are a lot more than just that.”

With the Ramova Theatre just off 35th and Halsted streets, it’s in eyesight of the ballpark about a 15 minute walk. From a resident’s standpoint, the attraction that the new theater would bring is something the neighborhood should be able to handle. It just depends on how the theater handles it. 

“This area is set up for it [traffic] already plus it’s on a major street, not within a residential block,” Arguelles said. “But it also depends on how well the people are running it who are involved with the restaurant and brewery, how well they handle things like people on the streets, noise complaints, things like that.”

Arguelles added that the theater’s ownership just have to be aware of the neighborhood needs.

“Just like Thalia Hall in Pilsen. But you have to be careful because you don’t want it to lead to gentrification. So you have to be wise. But honestly Bridgeport has been coming up a lot with the coffee shops, breweries and parks. It is a community of families,” she said.

“I think there’s an incredible team behind it from the music standpoint that have been involved in the art community for a really long time,” Arguelles continues. “But also they’re people that seem dedicated to bringing something really special to Bridgeport.” 

 With construction currently underway, the new Ramova Theatre is slated to open by the end of this year. A 1920s-themed event is already scheduled for New Year’s Eve.

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