The Aurora Arts Center received a 2020 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Adaptive Use. It combines artist lofts with an arts / theater school in a historic building adjacent to the Paramount Arts Center at the center of Stolp Island in Aurora. This adaptive reuse project is dramatically improving the quality of life and economic opportunity in Downtown Aurora. The development provides high quality arts education services for the community, expands access and delivery of performing arts, provides quality affordable housing specifically for artists, and generates significant job opportunities within Aurora’s revitalizing downtown.
The buildings that are now the renovated Aurora Arts Center in Aurora, Illinois include the Stanley Building and the Block & Kuhl Building, constructed in 1925 and1928. Both structures are contributing structures of the Stolp Island Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. These buildings had remained vacant for over six years and were viewed as a bruise on a hopeful community challenged by decades of disinterest.
The Community Builders, a national non-profit real estate developer, partnered with the City of Aurora and Paramount Theatre to create 38 new affordable artist-preference apartments (Artesan Lofts), a school of the arts (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 in two beautiful historic buildings. The project also houses an Amy Morton’s restaurant at ground level.
Cordogan Clark were architects and engineers for the project; MacRostie Historic Advisors the preservation consultant; VARA Design interiors; and McShane Construction Company its contractor. The resulting development dramatically improves the quality of life, economic opportunity, and regional interest in Downtown Aurora. Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said, "This project not only saved this building by reusing this wonderful structure with beautiful architecture, it breathed new energy into our arts scene in Downtown Aurora."