Famous comedian wants to build youth center on West Side

Hannibal Burress says he's bought office building, has early plans for project

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

Comedian and Galewood native Hannibal Buress is planning to open a community youth center in the community where he grew up, at Monumental Office building, 6120-6114 W. North Ave., 29th Ward Ald. Chris Taliaferro announced during a candidate forum on Feb. 5, held at Michele Clark High School, 5101 W. Harrison St.

During a follow-up interview, Taliaferro said that Buress approached him with the proposal "about a month ago." The alderman said that the proposal is still in the initial stages and that he wants to hold community meetings deeper into the planning process. 

Buress is a comedian, a writer and an actor whose career took off roughly a decade ago. In October 2014, his comedy routine touching on rape allegations against Bill Cosby went viral, bringing renewed scrutiny to the allegations. 

In a Dec. 21, 2017, interview with the Chicago Reader, Buress said he grew up near the intersection of North Avenue and Austin Boulevard. He currently lives in Wicker Park. In the interview, he mentioned his plans to build the community youth center.

"I just bought this place on the west side, a commercial building where I want to start offering some art classes, writing classes, music classes — that type of thing," he was quoted as saying. "I gotta find a structure to it now that I have a mortgage in place. The idea is for kids on the west side, if you don't play sports and you're 14, there's something else for you to do."  

Taliaferro confirmed that Burress's prospective center would be in the Monumental Office Building, a two-story office building that was originally built in 1958. 

Taliaferro said that, to the best of his knowledge, Buress owned the building. He said that the vision the comedian shared with him was similar to what he outlined in the Chicago Reader interview, which is for a community center that would provide afterschool opportunities for the youth. 

Attempts to independently verify the ownership of the Monumental property, and to reach out to Burress and his representatives for comment, were unsuccessful.

"We had an initial meeting with his representatives and with Mr. Buress as well, just to go over the proposed idea," he said. "We talked about the benefits it could bring to the community and to our young men and young women with afterschool programming and tutoring. I thought it would be excellent for the ward and as the result, we're going to continue."

The alderman said that he expected that the project would require some zoning changes. He said that

"Once Buress is prepared to move forward with community meetings, we will certainly move forward with community meetings," he said.

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com    

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