By Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune reporter
2:51 PM CST, November 9, 2012
The iO Theater is moving. On Friday, owner Charna Halpern purchased a new space for her long-running comedy enterprise, signaling an end to iO's presence in Wrigleyville after nearly two decades.
Currently located at the corner of Clark and Addison, the theater — originally known as ImprovOlympic when it was co-founded by Halpern and improv guru Del Close — will be relocating to 1501 N. Kingsbury St. in the gentrifying Clybourn corridor in Lincoln Park, not far from the Whole Foods and country music venue Joe's Bar.
Halpern has been on the hunt for a new space for a few years now, ever since redevelopment plans were announced for the building she currently leases from cousin Steve Schultz.
"We needed to find a new home," Halpern said Friday. "And I figured if we're going to do it, might as well do it big. We are busting at the seams as it is." The new building — a North Side warehouse space that is presently home to a furniture retailer and a bakery — has about 33,000 square feet of available space, which is twice as big as iO's current venue.
Halpern says she plans to build four theater spaces of 200 seats each, one of which will be programmed by longtime Chicago improv favorites TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi, better known as TJ & Dave. There will also be a bar and lounge area, an expanded classroom and an office space.
Roughly 300-400 performers can be seen on stage during any given month at iO, which was founded 30 years ago. Like Second City, it has become an iconic comedy training ground that has been home to the likes of Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. When "Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels comes to town scouting for talent, iO is one of his main stops; it's where he found this year's new additions Cecily Strong and Tim Robinson.
The new venue is estimated to be a $6 million project; construction is expected to start in April with an eye toward opening in early 2014.
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