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For Waukegan, an important step in revitalizing their city was the renovation of the historic Karcher Hotel into a mixed-use arts facility. The “Karcher Building,” as it is known on the National Register of Historic Places, is a nine-story building which opened in 1928 as a 140-room hotel, but fell on hard times. By the 1970s it had been turned into a senior citizens’ residence, but had been standing vacant since 1984 when Artspace entered the scene. Artspace renovated the Karcher to create 36 units of affordable live/work space for artists and their families plus 2,811 square feet of ground-floor retail and community space for arts-friendly businesses and nonprofit organizations. Other amenities include a two-story gallery and community room, computer learning center and an outdoor patio.
This historic building has brought new life to downtown Waukegan. Its site, just a block from City Hall, demonstrates Waukegan's commitment to the revitalization of downtown.
Care was taken during the construction process to respect the existing detailing of the historic building while updating systems and spaces to meet the demands of the new program.
Any time a group comes in with a zero failure track record, that's good. It's an overwhelming undertaking, but...Artspace had unanimous support of City Council members when it was approved under the last city administration, and aldermen still back it.