The City of Waukegan commands a strategic Lake Michigan site midway between Milwaukee and Chicago. Shipping and manufacturing were its economic lifeblood for decades, but now the city is reinventing itself in the post-industrial age and turning to the arts to help drive economic revitalization of its downtown area.
For Waukegan, an important step in the process was the renovation of the historic Karcher Hotel into a mixed-use arts facility. This nine-story building, located a block from City Hall, opened in 1928 as a 140-room hotel. But like most of downtown Waukegan, it fell on hard times. By the 1970s it had been turned into a senior citizens’ residence, and had stood vacant since 1984 when Artspace entered the scene.
Artspace has now renovated the Karcher at a cost of $14.6 million to create 36 units of affordable live/work space for artists and their families plus 2,811 square feet of ground-floor retail and community space for arts-friendly businesses and nonprofit organizations. Other amenities include a two-story gallery and community room, computer learning center and an outdoor patio.
City of Waukegan llinois Housing Development AuthorityJP Morgan ChaseIFFLake CountyIllinois Department of Commerce and Economic OpportunityRaymond James Tax Credit Funds, Inc. Waukegan Park District
Artspace thanks the many individuals and local businesses that have supported this project.
"Artspace had unanimous support of City Council members when it was approved under the last city administration, and aldermen still back it.” — Bob Sabonjian, Mayor of Waukegan
My name is Violet and I love where I live! I live on Water Street in downtown Waukegan, just a couple blocks from Artspace, and this neighborhood has an amazing arts community. I’ve seen original plays at Clockwise Theatre and incredible musical talents like B.B. King at the Genesee Theatre. There are five galleries within a five minute walking distance, and my friends have some impressive work on display. I got a beautiful tattoo at Dinosaur Studio, where the owner (another Waukegan resident) designs custom artwork and is a very gifted, classically trained watercolorist. The mayor’s photographs (his degree is in the arts) often hang on the wall there too. Across the street at the co-op Dandelion Gallery, I bought a great painting that I have hanging on my wall. On weekends I have to choose whether to go to Big Ed’s for a live blues band, down the street to Burgundy Room for a punk show, or to Jerry’s Tacos for all different kinds of music. During the summer, the Library’s outdoor Concert Series is standing room only, and you can watch little kids practice their routines across the street at Rhythm Academy of Dance. My favorite part of living here though, is when I get to be a part of the arts scene. Green Town Tavern, just around the corner from my apartment, has Open Mic night on Thursdays and I love playing guitar there. When you walk in, everybody says hi and it’s like a scene from Cheers. One of my friends put it best – “Downtown Waukegan is like urban Mayberry.” At Green Town (named for author Ray Bradbury’s reference to his hometown of Waukegan), everybody is so cool and as intimidating as it is to get up there after somebody has totally rocked it, the crowd is always super friendly and motivating. My dad and I even played a few duets! And with just half a block to carry my guitar home, it’s a great place to hang out all night. There’s so much happening here and Waukegan is definitely becoming an arts destination. For more info on the whole community, check out the podcast Art Lake Show or the magazine Left of the Lake. You can also visit ArtWauk.com and WaukeganMainStreet.org for upcoming events in downtown Waukegan! Downtown Waukegan is a great place to call home, especially if you’re an artist.
Karcher Artspace Lofts is a nine-story, mixed use arts facility with 36 affordable live/work units for artists and their families. Efficiencies, one-, two- and three-bedroom units range in size from 665 to 1,441 square feet.
The “Karcher Building,” as it is known on the National Register of Historic Places, is a Waukegan landmark. The nine-story building on Washington Street opened in 1928 was a 140-room hotel. It has, however, been vacant since 1984. The 36 units will be both living and studio space designed specifically for the needs of artists – with open floor plans, uninterrupted “gallery walls,” and abundant natural light. The project will feature exposed ductwork and simple finishes will give the units a contemporary loft style look and feel.
Download Building Floorplans
Download Live/Work Unit Floorplans
Elgin Artspace Lofts has commercial space available
Ground floor commercial spaceSuite C709 square feetWill build to suit
We will begin taking names for the waiting list, so if you're interested in leasing a unit, review the Karcher Leasing Information packet and Application to see if you qualify, then contact the Property Manager.
Applications will be accepted by appointment, or during office hours:
Monday-Thursday: 10:00 pm - 6:00 pmFriday: 11:00 am - 6:00 pm Saturday: 9:00 am - 12:00 noon
Artpace follows all federal fair housing guidelines.
Please contact leasing office for rental rates and unit availability.
Artist is defined as:
In all art disciplines, a designer, technician, craftsperson, teacher or administrator who is dedicated to using their expertise within the community to support, promote, present, and/or teach and propagate their art form through events, activities, performances and classes.
Artspace | 250 Third Avenue North, Suite 400 | Minneapolis, MN 55401 | 612.333.9012 ©2015 Artspace Projects, Inc.