Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Movies on Lawrence?

According to Alderman Shiller's office, the developer of the property at the southeast corner of Lawrence and Winthrop is proposing a parking garage and movie theatre for the empty lot that is used as parking for shows at the Aragon. Apparently, Kerasotes Theatres, a midwest-based movie chain, has signed a letter of intent with the developer. While a letter of intent may sound formal, this is the same movie theatre company that had a letter of intent to build the proposed theatre at Wilson Yard, but pulled out of the project. Kerasotes did contribute $1,500 to Helen Shiller's re-election campaign in 2007.

Anyone who has tried to navigate traffic on Lawrence during a show at the Aragon will be opposed to a movie theatre at this location. Lawrence is gridlocked during shows at the Aragon, and adding a 10 to 14 screen movie theatre will create chaos for anyone living (or travelling through) a four-block radius of the property.

Most disturbing is that the last community meeting regarding zoning for this property was held in August, 2005 when plans for a parking garage with medium-sized retail space were proposed, with Trader Joe's mentioned as a possible retail tenant. Hopefully the community will have an opportunity to voice their concern about this project before the necessary zoning changes are made.

A modern movie theatre would be a great addition to Uptown (possible use for the Uptown Theatre, similar to the Century Mall in Lakeview?), but the location needs to carefully selected due to the substantial pedestrian and vehicle traffic that a movie theatre would bring to our neighborhood.


  1. I really like your blog. Just solid reporting on issues that effect those of us in the neighborhood and not a lot of speculation, hyberbole and pointing fingers. More please.

  2. > A modern movie theatre would be a great addition to Uptown (possible use for the Uptown Theare, similar to the Century Mall in Lakeview?)

    The Century Mall economic model is the modern trend of lots of little theaters. If the Uptown were chopped up inside like the Century Mall it would not be the Uptown anymore. I think we should all be working toward preserving the performance space of the Uptown, the last of its kind.

  3. Hugh,

    If economically feasible, I agree with you that the Uptown Theatre should be restored to its original beauty and use as a live theatre venue. As the building has been vacant for the last 20 plus years and its enoromous size, there is doubt that it can be viable as a single-use theatre.

    Something needs to happen sooner rather than later to ensure that the theatre doesn't reach a point where demolition is an option over renovation.

  4. Actually, I live about half a block from the proposed location, and welcome the idea of a movie theatre there, despite the traffic it would bring. Any other retail option, including a Trader Joes, will also bring traffic--just look at the number of cars parked at any of the surrounding grocery stores.

    The accompanying garage will attract other businesses to the entertainment district, including the restaurants and bars we all want to see along there. They need to park somewhere.

  5. Anonymous,

    While a small grocery store would bring additional traffic to the neighborhood, it would be at a very different time than a concert at the Aragon and Riveria. Grocery stores are busiest during the day and early evening. Trader Joe's, for example, closes at 10 p.m., which is before most concerts even end. Also, movie theatres attract large groups of people at one time, versus a steady stream of traffic like a grocery store.

    The busiest time at movie theatres is weekend evenings, which is exactly when most concerts at the two venues occur.

    The blocks between Winthrop and Sheridan on Lawerence are predominantly residential. The majority of the commerical development in Uptown is along Broadway and Clark. If a proposed movie theatre is built at that location, the traffic along residential Withrop would increase substantially. There are several other lots in Uptown that would be much better suited for a movie theatre.

  6. cub reporter,

    I think the addition of the parking garage, even with the movie theaters, is going to help the traffic situation. A lot of the traffic seen during concerts (especially the traffic on Winthrop and Kenmore) is comprised of people driving around the block repeatedly looking for parking, and this is only going to get worse if more residents move to establish permit parking. Movie theater traffic would certainly be highest during the evening, but unlike a concert the traffic would be staggered throughout the evening--not all hitting at once. Contrary to what you say, concert traffic is not just on weekends--there are just as many concerts on weekdays. In addition, a Trader Joes would be just as bad for traffic, because the early evening grocery shopping crowd would hit just as most concerts are getting started (6-8 pm). I also think a movie theater right next to the CTA is significantly better than a location where everyone is going to feel compelled to drive to a movie. Of hand, I can't think of many other available lots in Uptown that would qualify, and the fact that it would be right in the heart of the entertainment district is a big plus. Before or after their movie, patrons are likely to want to catch dinner in the district or go for a cocktail...that would be good for the viability of the whole area.

  7. First,

    I LIKE this blog. Much better than those asswipes over at What the Helen do. Not as funny, but more informative.

    Those guys are a waste of human(or pirate) flesh.

    That being said I like the idea of movie theaters and parking near Lawrence. Give the CTA an incentive to renovate that nasty Lawrence EL station.

    Plus combined with everything else going on around there it should be a boon to the neighborhood. Hopefully, not a boondoggle.

    Only time will tell if it gets built. I am not holding my pirate breath.

  8. I live in that area too and would welcome the theater, provided that it was attractive and that the spot didn't become a location for massive loitering. So I'm less concerned about car traffic and more concerned about gangs (figuratively and literally) of kids hanging out there. But I would welcome most anything on that corner.