Good news all ’round

Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago announces that it will sell its “Greenhouse” building, home to five other nonprofit companies in three auditoria, to a development company which has agreed to operate it as a nonprofit theater space for at least 25 years. Victory Gardens itself last year moved out of the building and three blocks up the street into the renovated Biograph Theater, which history buffs may recall as the last place John Dillinger ever saw a movie (or anything else).

This is a good outcome for everyone: for Victory Gardens which is, after all, primarily a theater and not a landlord and like most of us is better off not sinking all its worldly wealth into housing; for the theater companies resident at the Greenhouse which won’t have to seek new homes, scarce even in a declining real estate market; for Chicago arts patrons who benefit from exposure to multiple companies in a single convenient location; and, it must be said, for the member of the Victory Gardens Board whose development company will purchase the space.

There’s nothing untoward about the deal–the purchase price is based on an independent appraisal, and will have to be approved by independent lenders, and in any case no one will make any money til at least 2033–and it’s almost certainly the case that the only place to find a purchaser of extremely valuable land in an upscale residential community who wouldn’t immediately knock down the old barn and build condos was on the theater’s own Board. But it’s also true that ultimately the purchaser will do very well with this property; and why shouldn’t she?

So let this be a lesson to all the Boards trembling in fear about contractual relationships between Board members and the agency (“The artists who show in our gallery can’t be on our Board because they might derive financial benefit from our operation!”)–such transactions are not only permissible but occasionally the most beneficial for all concerned.


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