The John C. Dunham Aurora Arts Center is a transformative project that builds on three central themes in urban revitalization: The arts; mixed-use development; and partnerships to achieve adaptive use and preservation goals. It is a programmatically complex historic preservation and adaptive-reuse project that repositions two important landmark buildings at the center of Stolp Island in downtown Aurora.
The Center provides 38 new affordable artist-preference apartments (Artesan Lofts); a performing arts school (Paramount School of the Arts); theater rehearsal spaces (Paramount Theatre rehearsal spaces); and a restaurant (Stolp Island Social House) housed within 80,000 square feet of historic buildings. Bringing in the Paramount School as a major tenant creates synergy between the Arts Center and the adjacent historic Paramount Theater. The resulting development has spurred Aurora’s ongoing downtown revitalization.
The Aurora Arts Center is comprised of the historic Block and Kuhl and Stanley Building, completed in 1928 and 1925 respectively. The two buildings were jointed at the interior in the late 1980s to serve as the downtown campus for the Waubonsee Community College. After the community college moved down the block, the floorplates of these buildings proved a redevelopment puzzle, causing the buildings to sit idle for over six years. The long neglected, dilapidated buildings had frustrated previous redevelopment and threatened perceptions of downtown Aurora. Their adaptive reuse, with the three main program elements distributed throughout the buildings was challenging and required creative thinking. The Aurora Arts Center brings new life to these historic buildings and downtown Aurora.