125 years ago, The Forum opened in Bronzeville. For three quarters of a century, it served as a focal point of the community, hosting events, dances, rallies, and almost every other function where people come together as a community. In the 1970’s, it closed and by 2018 was on the list of Illinois Most Endangered Buildings. It seemed like the only social function in The Forum’s future was a date with a wrecking ball.
But a decade ago, an organization called Urban Juncture began the laborious process of restoring the building. Urban Juncture works to develop retail opportunities in order to revitalize neighborhoods. Another step in its 43rd Street project is now taking shape in City Hall: Reviving The Forum West Annex.
The annex is a pair of low-rise retail buildings wedged between the assembly hall and the CTA Green Line’s 43rd Street Station. The station pre-dates The Forum by five years, having been built in 1892 for the World’s Columbian Exposition. But for the last 129 years, it has funneled people in and out of the neighborhood, right past The Forum, and all of its potential.
While the heavy lifting of getting the assembly hall back in shape continues, Urban Junction recently filed paperwork with the city to adjust the zoning of the annex so that it can rehab the two small retail buildings, which total 32,000 square feet.
The city paperwork indicates that the spaces may be used for, “retail, educational, restaurant, and other culinary uses, which may include, book store, art gallery, music school, community meeting venue, banquet facility and entertainment venue, including live performance.”
When complete, there will be three spaces, with doors at 318, 320, and 322 East 43rd Street.