Kyle's Place at St. James Commons

September 27, 2012

Sometimes the veil between heaven and earth seems particularly thin. The line between the inside and the outside dissolves, and there is no other, only us.

That’s the feeling and the spirit called forth by Kyle’s Place, the affectionate name for the D. Kyle Beecken Memorial Gallery that is planned for St. James Commons on Huron Street, Chicago.

With wide doors and an abundance of clear glass, Kyle’s Place will serve as an inviting, visible place where the Episcopal Church meets and mingles with the city of Chicago. Offering free Wi-Fi and state of the art technology, it will create a friendly environment for casual visitors checking email, home office workers meeting clients, or formal presentations by St. James ministry groups.

It is an important piece of the ongoing renovations to bring vitality and exposure to the many ministries and cultural programs at St. James Commons, which includes the Episcopal Church Center, St. James Cathedral and the plaza.

“We’re excited about converting the first floor and the plaza and reaching out into the community to invite them into the church,” said Dave Beecken, who, with his wife Kitty, are funding the gallery as a memorial to their son, Kyle Beecken, who died of a heart attack in April 2011, at age 27.

“The property is a block away from Michigan Avenue, and to have a plaza where people can sit and read and be involved, I think this is going to draw people in,” Beecken said. “We would like to see them move out of the plaza, into the gallery and into the church.”

The gallery itself will reflect many of Kyle Beecken’s passions: his knowledge and love of the cyber world, his creativity, his entrepreneurial spirit and his compassion for others.

“Kyle was very focused on computers,” Dave Beecken said. “He hosted 3,500 websites in our basement when we lived in Hinsdale. “What’s intriguing about the gallery is that it could be a meeting place with Wi-Fi and a coffee kiosk. We thought it was a space where we could provide a memorial to him.”

From the plaza on Huron Street, visitors will enter through double sliding glass doors and experience a light-filled gallery of clear glass along the north and south walls, overlooking landscaped gardens and a labyrinth. A coffee bar in the Gallery would offer a start-up or expansion opportunity to one of the area’s small entrepreneurs. A hospitality pantry would provide catering space for diocesan or cathedral events.

The gallery itself also will provide unimpeded flow between the Cathedral, diocesan staff, and the surrounding community.

Beecken is a founding partner of Beecken Petty O'Keefe & Company, a Chicago-based private equity management firm that focuses exclusively on the healthcare industry. Longtime Episcopalians, he and Kitty were members of Grace Episcopal Church, Hinsdale, for 30 years before moving to downtown Chicago five years ago. They are active members of the congregation at St. James Cathedral, where Kitty is a member of the altar guild and for three years has chaired the Episcopal Charities Ball. Dave serves on the Cathedral Chapter, which is its elected governing body.

Among their philanthropic endeavors, Beecken and his wife sponsor three scholarships at The University of the South, the Episcopal university known familiarly as Sewanee, and they have made a significant commitment to the School of Theology’s next capital campaign. Beecken is a graduate of Sewanee and serves on its Board of Regents.

Why does he give?

“I’m at a point in my life where I’ve had some success, so I want to give back to institutions that have affected me.” Beecken said. “Sewanee has, and so has St. James. The bishop and Dean Joy Rogers were there in the dark hours after Kyle’s death. They were there for us.”

“Sewanee was transformative for me; the Episcopal Church can be transformative.”

Beecken said he hopes the gallery and the new St. James Commons will attract people from the community and tempt Episcopalians from outlying areas to come into town to see what is happening at St. James Commons.

The new gallery is expected to be completed by March 2013.

Category: St. James Commons
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