Construction Update
Crane Pops Up at DePaul University

DePaul School of Music under construction (Courtesy of Lincoln Park Spy James)

DePaul School of Music under construction (Courtesy of Lincoln Park Spy James)

DePaul University’s new School of Music building has been under construction since last November.  But just recently, the work went into boss mode: A tower crane popped up on the Lincoln Park campus.

Lincoln Park Spy James is the eagle eye who dropped a few photographic eggs into our tip line nest.

The $99 million building, designed by Antunovich Associates, was announced back in 2009, as part of the university’s ten year plan.  It will give the school a new 505-seat concert hall, a pair of recital halls, rehearsal spaces, teaching studios, an underground parking garage, and… a dedicated 76-seat jazz hall, meant to evoke a jazz club; which is the best news Chicago jazz fans have had since the College of DuPage took over programming WRTE.

The new building replaces the old McGaw Hall, which had some music rooms in it, but was mostly known as the building with the computer lab.  For those of you too young to know what a computer lab is, it’s a big white rooms with rows of uncomfortable chairs facing banks of computers two generations old.  It’s where “matrix” is a type of printer, not a movie.

The goal is to have the new building finished by spring of 2018.  Then the old music building will be renovated, including turning the existing theater into an opera hall.

For more information, see the press release below from the groundbreaking in November, after the pictures.

Pre-construction work is set to begin this week for a new School of Music building on DePaul University’s Lincoln Park Campus. The design of the 185,000-square-foot facility by Chicago architectural firm Antunovich Associates, Inc., is dedicated to music teaching and performance.
In addition to teaching studios and rehearsal spaces, the new facility will include a concert hall, two recital halls and a jazz hall.

“This is one of the nation’s preeminent schools of music,” said the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., president of DePaul. “Our alumni perform in the world’s major orchestras, opera companies and jazz festivals. The School of Music facilities will now match the artistry of our alumni, students and faculty.”

In 2009 DePaul announced its intention to build a School of Music complex as part of its 10-year master plan. The university’s board of trustees gave approval Oct. 30 to begin the $98.5 million project.

“DePaul has produced highly acclaimed musicians, including a Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, Thelonious Monk Competition winners and winners of the world’s major opera auditions,” noted Judy Bundra, interim dean of the School of Music.

In 2015 alone, students and alumni performed in the Chopin International piano competition, Berlin Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Singers performed onstage at the Royal Opera House London, Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and the Lyric Opera. Jazz students and alumni won top awards in trumpet, alto saxophone and trombone including jazz artist of the year. One artist received recognition for the DownBeat magazine jazz album of the year, while others’ albums have been on the Billboard jazz charts.

“On any given evening across the city, from the Jazz Showcase to Symphony Center to the Lyric Opera, you can hear DePaul students, faculty and alumni performing,” Bundra said.
The new building, together with the DePaul Art Museum, which opened in 2011, and The Theatre School, which opened in 2013, represents a significant cultural addition for the residents of Lincoln Park and the greater Chicago area.

“The new School of Music complex will crown our plans for a vibrant artistic corridor along Fullerton Avenue for the entire community,” Holtschneider said. The school itself offers more than 300 free concerts a year, just down the street from the highly-ranked theatre school and the free admission art museum.

Making music at Fullerton and Halsted

DePaul’s new School of Music complex will be constructed along the west side of North Halsted Street between Fullerton and Belden avenues. It will be just east of the historic McCormick Row House District.

“The new School of Music complex is a multi-phase project,” said Bob Janis, vice president for Facility Operations.

He explained this first phase of the construction project includes the demolition of McGaw Hall, located at 802 W. Belden Ave., which currently houses a computer lab and music practice rooms. Construction of the new center, including an underground parking garage, will occur during this first phase, expected to be complete in spring 2018.

“The next phase involves the renovation of the existing music building and repurposing the existing concert hall into an opera hall,” Janis said.

The new center includes the 505-seat William E. and Mary Pat Gannon Hay Concert Hall. The elegant and acoustically optimal hall will be the central public performance element and will accommodate the School of Music’s full range of musical ensembles.

A 140-seat recital hall will be three stories high in order to deliver professional quality acoustics with a clear and polished sound. A smaller recital hall will seat 81 people. There also will be the 76-seat Philip Corboy and Mary Dempsey Jazz Hall, designed to provide an intimate setting with a jazz club ambiance. During the second phase of construction, the dramatic renovation of the interior of the concert hall will create the Eugene and Sasha Jarvis Opera Hall, a 160-seat venue for operas and vocal performances.

According to Bundra, the new complex will better serve the entire DePaul student body as well as the more than 750 children and adults who participate in the Community Music Division.
“Engaging the community is critical to the mission of the School of Music,” she said. “By committing to this extensive building project, DePaul University demonstrates its strong support of the arts as a vital part of a Vincentian education. Building on over a century of excellence in music, the students, faculty and staff envision an even greater future for DePaul’s School of Music with the new facilities.”

Construction timetable

Temporary utility plant work will take place in early November with an anticipated completion date in early- to mid-January. During that time there will be various service shutdowns, most of which will be scheduled during off-hours, according to Janis.

In November and December, two access ramps will be constructed for the existing School of Music at the southwest quadrant of the building. One ramp will go to the lower level entrance to facilitate access for disabled community members. The other ramp will lead to the base of the existing stairs that go up to the second floor level. In December, temporary pedestrian access fencing and barricades will be put in place for continued access to the concert hall during construction.

Demolition of McGaw is scheduled to begin in January. It will start with environmental remediation from existing utility plant elements, then proceed to full demolition, noted Janis. This process is scheduled to take six to eight weeks to complete.

The contractor for the project is Bulley & Andrews, which was founded in Chicago in 1891.

High notes

Since its founding in 1912, the DePaul School of Music has become an international center for artistic and technical training in the musical arts. The school is renowned for its programs in performance, composition, opera, jazz, music education, arts management and sound recording technology.

“DePaul’s School of Music offers students the opportunity to learn from a faculty of working, professional musicians in a collaborative, performance-focused environment,” Bundra said. “With new state-of-the-art facilities, generations of music students will be able to rehearse and perform in spaces designed for music, opening new opportunities for even greater success.”

Location: 801 West Fullerton Avenue, Lincoln Park

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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