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Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence, 2nd Place: Wheeler Kearns Architects, for Beverly Arts Center

When the Beverly Arts Center opened the doors of its new building in September 2002, this venerable institution gained a permanent home for its varied schedule of dance, visual arts and theatre classes. And just as important, the Beverly and Morgan Park communities gained a magnificent performance space, something that had been sorely missing in the area.

Created by Wheeler Kearns Architects, in collaboration with Morris Architects/Planners, the new center at the intersection of 111th Street and Western Avenue represents the best in theatre and community center design. The centerpiece of the 42,000-square-foot building — the performance space — seats 425 and features state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment. A dance studio surrounds the main stage on the first floor. The first floor also includes a smaller theater, a reception area and landscaped courtyard, making the center perfect for special events. The second floor gallery space is ideal for exhibitions and classes.

The project was the result of a collaborative planning effort involving numerous community meetings and focus groups spearheaded by the City of Chicago and Alderman Virginia Rugai to ensure the new structure reflected the community’s input.