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.