Monday, March 26, 2012

Coming Soon: Uptown Theater Renovation

Several readers who attended Saturday's performance by Lakeside Pride Symphonic Band at the Preston Bradley Center contacted Uptown Update to let us know that Alderman James Cappleman provided an update on the plans for the Uptown Theater.  Alderman Cappleman, who served as the emcee for the concert (fittingly, the theme was Salute to Uptown), announced to the three-hundred-plus people in attendance that he was working closely with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to see the rebirth of the Uptown Entertainment District with a complete renovation of the Uptown Theater.  He said that he expects all of the financing to be in place by the end of 2013, at which time the renovation and restoration would begin.  Cappleman said that the total project cost is $63 million, and that the entire project would be expedited to be finished in two years.

Translation: By the end of 2015, if all goes as planned, the Uptown Theater would be restored to its former glory once again. Combined with a rebuilt Wilson CTA station, the next three years should be transformational for our neighborhood.

We are awaiting further details on the monumental announcement.


  1. How happy I am to hear this!!

    I hope that these people will do a correct restoration, for this is one of the four or five most beautiful old film palaces still extant in the U.S.

    Happy days for Uptown are ahead.

  2. A renovated Wilson, and an Uptown Theater on the brink of final restoration in the winter of 2015 would bode well for re-election.

    And, if Cap can help pull it off, he'll bloody well deserve it.

    I will, of course, believe it when I see it; but, if only half of the things being discussed as possibilities around here bear fruit in a few of years ... nice.

  3. I like that sign on the south side of the building that is gone now right? Geez, its amazing how much money the movie industry generated and was put INTO amazing architecture, now all that money just goes into celebrity's lifestyles, condos, houses, etcetera. We USED to have quite a luxurious setting to watch movies, now its just at home or at most theatres just humdrum super boring decor. How shameful, but the restoration of this gem would obviously be awesome.

  4. There are still a few relatively intact and operating movie palaces in town.

    Ya got your Portage.

    Ya got your Patio Theater where I may be introducing the "Blues Brothers" screenings on March 30, 31 and April 1. With April 1st being my operative day. Rumor has it I had a small role in the film during the chase scene at Dixie Square Mall.

    Check it out.

    Of course the nearby Music Box Theatre is a smaller example of the moving going past.

    I think the Patio has about 1500 seats which means a reopened IrishPirate Uptown Theater would be three times the size.

  5. Seems like a lot of if, whats and maybes. Financing will be in place by the end of 2013?

    Perhaps Rahm is trying to figure out how he can get his wall street buddies to buy it and lease it back

  6. re the Portage, it is in danger of being bought by the Chicago Tabernacle church and converted into a church. The building housing the theater is not owned by the theater operator, and the bldg. is for sale. Alderman Arena and pretty much every community association is against this plan, but it still may have a chance before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

    If you love old movie palaces, please check out the FB page, or better yet write a letter to the ZBA.

  7. I can't stop gut laughing!!!! How long has James been in office and he's now got Wilson redline overhaul and the reopening of Uptown Theater under his belt! Shiller was around 22 years collecting a nice paycheck for doing nothing more than being a cow in the way of progress! I think the term horse's ass comes to mind when thinking about how she must now identify with herself seeing a rookie alderman come in hitting grand slams within his first 18 months.

  8. The Northwest Chicago film society has been putting on some Wednesday night movies at the Portage. Also some weekend blockbuster movies coming up. See the Red Sea part in "The Ten Commandments" on Easter Weekend.

    I've gone to a few of them. You can spot me riding down Montrose on my unicycle on movie nights. Backwards, while wearing a blindfold and singing the theme song from "The Monkees".
    A mere five miles or so.

    As for the Tabernacle Church buying that property.....thppt.

    I just did a bit of research and they clearly want it for the theater portion of the property. They have something similar in NYC and the are basically a NYC congregation trying to expand their outreach to Chicago.

    Like Thomas Jefferson I never ask another person what his religious beliefs are and I tolerate no questions on my own lack of religious faith, but a church is not appropriate for that building.

    That neighborhood is struggling already and I suspect within a few years Sears as a company will no longer be with us. The Sears and the Portage Theater are the anchors for that hood.

    There are plenty of vacant Church properties for sale on the NW side. If they want a big ass theater for services rent the Portage a few days or nights a week. Or the Patio.

  9. I am concerned about the 63 million number. IIRC there was an article about future reno possibilities and costs that gave a higher baseline and painted numbers even higher than that as very possible.

  10. Not in James ward and all Rahms effort. Don't be so quick to praise someone who did nothing for this news.

  11. Another reason why people should stop moving out of the neighborhood due to gang violence. These next 3 years are what is going to make Uptown a thriving neighborhood. Change is not immediate, it is gradual and it takes a whole community to make it happen.

  12. I believe with the redraw this is in James' Ward.

  13. "Will" be in James' ward. I don't believe the redraw takes effect until 2015.

    Regardless, for yeeeeears all we heard from Smith or Shiller (and by extension, Daley) was that, essentially, it would/could never happen.

    Now, with new blood in office for less than a year .... hm.

    This might be enough to get me to go hear Helen's estimation of how things are coming along without her.

    And, by "estimation" I mean an extended, rambling and wholly mind-splittingly stupid and incoherent session of ramblings and obfuscations

  14. Our former Alderman never wanted new things built in the Ward. God forbid new stuff might increase property values and rent. Unless of course she could find a way to get the tax payers in her ward to pay for a new store and somehow surround it with exactly what most of them did not want. Low income rental units.

    Also she refused to take a look in the mirror and realize that it was not just "her political enemies" in the ward that disliked talking to her or working on anything with her. Even if she wanted to work on a projects with another Alderman, City agency or one of the Mayors staffors, so was unable to because so many of them detested her. They would only do it if there was a very clear benefit for them. Most of the time there was not.

  15. At the "State of Uptown" luncheon a few weeks ago, Harry said he deeply regretted losing the Uptown (from his ward) now that things were starting to roll. James said the restoration would definitely happen "in our lifetimes." They both said they had worked with each other, with Rahm, with Jam Productions, and with various city agencies, in trying to get funding secured. Looks like it got a lot more secure in the past month!

  16. It would be interesting to know what efforts James Cappleman went through to secure this financing and what efforts Rahm put it.

    Did either do anything for it other than say yes? Have they even had to do that at this point?

    Anybody have any real knowlege on this? Just fact finding for now.

    1. Alas, did you get any facts or answers?

  17. 63 Mil... Seriously?! Will the seats come with butt massagers and a personal bar at each? I'm all for the renovation, Seriously, YAY! But 63 Million?!?!?! Does Rahm have a contractor or something in the family? Now that would be the Chicago I know!

  18. Al... 63 million is lower than previous estimates of 75 or 100 million. No where else in the city would benefit SO GREATLY from this period. And it would help the ENTIRE CITY as a whole to have such a building restored. For what Uptown has endured compared to what it was previously well, geez this is way overdue. Al gets the award of worst response to this news.

    Also I agree with COllie310.

  19. I was lucky enough to get a private tour of the Uptown a couple of years ago from the building engineer. I was absolutely dumbstruck at the beauty of the theater. It is truly one of the most magnificent things I have ever seen. The amount of damage caused by burst pipes years ago is monumental, and the $63 million price tag is about $10 million lower than what I was told by the engineer. I'm sure budget overages will end up being in the $73 million range.
    Restoration of the intricate plaster work, which is EVERYWHERE in the theater will be challenging. Those kind of artisans are few and far between, but if it is done correctly, Chicago will have a crown jewel in the Uptown Theater. I wish everyone involved the best of luck, and anxiously await the completion of the project. I guarantee a restored Uptown Theater will take your breath away.

  20. I would be thrilled to see a renovated Uptown theater, but worry that JAM Productions - who barely maintains the Riv or Aragon - can pull of a project of this scope.

  21. One idea I heard floated a while back was that Jam would maintain ownership of the land under the theater, but would turn over the theater itself to a non-profit, which could qualify for money that a for-profit corporation, like Jam, could not.

    Not sure if it went any farther than the planning/talking stage, but that was an option being discussed a year or so ago.

  22. The restoration of the Uptown is great news on so many levels. First it will be an anchor for a north side theatre district. Second the lobby will be a goldmine and will become a location for choice for weddings and other occasions, that alone will help support the theatre.

    Lastly, and this is what really excites me is when I was in college I was part of the restoration of the Victory Theatre in Dayton Ohio. There I learned one of the joys of one of these projects, the learning of nearly lost arts. Plaster work, applying gold leaf, detailing paint the list goes on forever. Can you say jobs???Or at least training for artists!

  23. Um, Colie310, a movie palace doesn't do one much good if you have a bullet hole in your head.

    Far too much stock is being placed on the renovation of the theater. I remember a few years back everyone thought that the Target was going to be the savior of the neighborhood, and while it's nice to have a Target close by, I'm still afraid to walk my son to the Wilson El station. If I had 63 million to spend I'd work on helping the unemployed and underemployed in our community get some education and better jobs. Maybe I'd subsidize some of this empty retail space in an effort to get tenants on board. But the Uptown Theater? I'd tear it down before I'd throw 63 million at it. Architecture does not trump social activism.

  24. This is better news than Target finally coming to the neighborhood!

  25. the uptown theatre would be a gem if the work can be done. but will see if the work happens in our lifetime.maybe yes, maybe no, but ill beleive it, when i see it.

  26. mi nombre es CARLOS MONTERROSO me siento muy contento de saber que van a remodelar el UPTOWN THEATRE pues yo trabaje en los setentas de limpieza de 12:am a 8:30am por muchos años

  27. So where are we with the restoration? Good follow up story needed here.

  28. What's going on with the Uptown restoration and the Wilson station rebuilt? What's the latest?

  29. Does anyone know if this is on target for completion by 2015 as stated by Cappleman in this post from 2012?