Developer would replace Royal George Theatre with apartments

A developer has offered plans for an eight-story residential building to replace the closed Royal George Theatre at 1641 N. Halsted St., the local alderperson disclosed in an email to constituents.

Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said Draper and Kramer wants to build 133 apartments on the site after the current building is demolished. The development would include ground-floor retail space and 35 parking spaces.

Hopkins told the Sun-Times the design has been modified several times following meetings with his staff and he’d still like the developer to address the project’s impact on a heavily used alley. Draper needs a zoning change before construction can start.

Other aspects of the design are well thought-out, Hopkins said. In his email, he reported the project would include 20 units qualifying as affordable, more than the city ordinance requires. Hopkins also said the project will include housing for performers and staff from Steppenwolf Theatre across the street.

The Royal George, long a prime venue on the Chicago theater scene, never reopened after being forced to close in 2020 for the pandemic. Formerly owned by New York-based Liberty Theatres, the property was sold to Draper last July for $7.08 million, records show.

Hopkins has scheduled a virtual meeting for 6 p.m. June 29 to allow residents to review the plan and comment on it, after which he will decide whether to support a zoning change. He said some nearby residents object to the project’s height and density.

The new building is by SGW Architecture & Design. The address for the project is listed as 1649 N. Halsted.

Gordon Ziegenhagen, Draper senior vice president, said the firm has been working with immediate neighbors and Steppenwolf for several months to craft a design with community benefits. “We’re looking forward to further dialogue with the larger neighborhood,” he said.

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