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The facade of the new Steppenwolf building. (Rendering by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture)

Steppenwolf Breaks Ground on New Home

The new Chicago building will contain an in-the-round performance space and will be next door to the theatre’s current home.

CHICAGO: On March 5, Steppenwolf Theatre Company broke ground on its new home, which will be a 50,000 square-foot building with a 400-seat in-the-round theatre. The new building will next to Steppenwolf’s current three-theatre space on 1650 N. Halsted St. It is slated to open in summer 2021.

“This is a monumental moment for us that is more than two decades in the making—built on the shoulders of the former leaders, the ensemble, the board, and the staff who have touched this project and together have made this vision a reality,” said artistic director Anna D. Shapiro in a statement. “Steppenwolf is first and foremost a Chicago theatre and that understanding has guided the design of every inch of the building. Our company’s role is to create experiences that are in conversation with the diverse life of our hometown and that motivate youth and adults toward participating in a future that is aware, connected and inclusive.”

The new building will also contain a floor dedicated solely to Steppenwolf’s education and community engagement efforts, a two-story lobby, a wine bar, and a sidewalk lounge. With this new home, Steppenwolf plans to expand the number of young people it serves from 15,000 to 40,000. The building will be designed by architect Gordon Gill of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, London-based theatre design team Charcoalblue, and built by Chicago-based Norcon Construction.

“The new theatre is a bold, modern in-the-round space offering unparallel levels of focus for the actors and audience,” said Gavin Green, senior partner at Charcoalblue in a statement. “Chicago doesn’t have another space like it—in fact Steppenwolf is leading a renewed charge in defining rooms where dialogue and the immediacy of the performers is paramount.”

The total cost of the expansion will be $73 million. To date, Steppenwolf has raised $46 million. The project began in 2016 with fixes to its current theatre building, including completion of its 1,700 theatre and the creation of a cafe. The new building constitutes phase two. The third phase will be renovations to Steppenwolf’s current 515-seat downstairs theatre to make it more accessible.

“This exciting expansion is sure to attract new visitors to Chicago, introduce new audiences to the arts and inspire countless young fans to expand their horizons and reach for new artistic heights,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. “In the Year of Chicago Theatre, Steppenwolf is one of many proud examples of the talented actors, actresses, producers and directors throughout the city and downtown that together strengthen Chicago’s global reputation as worldwide leader in innovative, impactful and groundbreaking artistic performances.”

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