Joffrey Acquires High-Rise Home, Plans Alumni Reunion

CHICAGO — There can be few if any choreographers, living or dead, who have high-rise commercial real estate developments on prime downtown land named after them. But in December 2007, the late Robert Joffrey will become perhaps the first member of the club when a new 32-story building in Chicago's Loop theatre district is christened the Joffrey Tower. The pre-Christmas announcement by the Joffrey Ballet is the most significant in a series of events marking the 50th anniversary of the troupe, founded in 1956 by Joffrey and his successor as artistic director, Gerald Arpino.

Developed by Smithfield Properties, the Joffrey Tower, at the corner of State and Randolph streets — directly across from the flagship Marshall Field's (soon to be Macy's) department store — will have retail tenants on the first two floors and condominiums on floors 5 through 32. The third and fourth floors will be the new permanent home of the Joffrey Ballet, which acquired naming rights when it purchased 45,000 square feet of space. The floors will include the Joffrey administrative offices plus seven state-of-the-art rehearsal studios and a black-box theatre.

The building will occupy approximately a quarter of a square block, extending a half block north along State Street and a half block east along Randolph. It will be within three blocks of the Cadillac Palace, Chicago, Goodman, Harris, Ford Center/Oriental, and Storefront theatres, as well as the Chicago Cultural Center, the Tiffany-decorated former central library.

Ground has not yet been broken for the development, although plans — minus the Joffrey connection — were announced more than two years ago as existing tenants were cleared out. Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources suggested the city of Chicago held the project hostage until the developer agreed to the Joffrey initiative. A co-chairman of the Joffrey board of trustees is William Daley, a former Cabinet member in the Clinton administration and clout-heavy brother of Chicago's mayor, Richard M. Daley. The arts-loving mayor has revitalized the Loop in part by re-establishing a central theatre district.

The purchase of space is evidence, if any was lacking, of the complete re-emergence of the Joffrey Ballet from the financial and artistic shadows that brought the company from New York to Chicago in 1995. The ballet has found a welcoming home here, where it has increased company membership, created a fruitful partnership with the Chicago Sinfonietta as its house orchestra, and slowly become integrated with local dance organizations and festivals. The Joffrey uses the Auditorium Theatre for its autumn and spring hometown residencies and for its December presentation of The Nutcracker, which played to audiences in excess of 3,000 for many of last month's performances.

The Joffrey has also announced it will hold its first-ever alumni reunion June 15-18 as the culmination of its golden anniversary season. All dancers, choreographers, designers, conductors, crew, and staff who have been associated with the company in the past are invited to attend. Alums can find information at www.joffrey50th.com or contact Lynne Chervony Belsky at [email protected]. A gala is set for June 17.