Friday, September 28, 2007

'Graff Art' Erased

The "Uptown Theatre" is now clear of all traces of the ugly graffiti that has covered its eastern face for quite some time now. Could this be the beginning of the planned rehab or just a routine clean-up by the caretakers?


  1. It's so sad that the building isn't open as a venue right now. It's so gorgeous!

  2. Sorry you got your hopes up, but there will be graffiti on that wall in less than two weeks. That wall and the wall above the Ace Hardware are the Holy Grails of the graf art world.

  3. Heard from a city inspector that the order to remove the graff came from City Hall. It supposedly made the city look bad to all the out of town big shots that go to the Green Mill.

  4. I wonder why they don't just coat the brick with graffiti-preventing paint/wax. It's pricey ($100-$150/gallon retail), but I think it would be cheaper (and easier on the bricks) than the constant blasting that it takes to remove the graffiti.

  5. That theater either needs to be restored or dropped. I would rather see it restored.

  6. The thought of demolition should nto be considered. The theatre is the most important building in Uptown and as Crains noted in June, 2 developers are bidding for it. If it is destroyed it will be Wilson Yard II. Don't let impatience remove a second-to-none landmark. It will be renovated soon.

  7. Maybe we could start a betting pool to see who is closest to guessing when the Uptown will get graffitied again. I'm betting it will occur on an early Monday morning before the commuters start. Either Monday morning at around 3am or next Monday morning at around the same time.

    It's sad that it comes down to wondering when it will happen again, but one would have thought the owner of this property would have better lighting with motion detectors at that sight. Across the street, there's concertina wire over the gate which stops people from jumping over the fence.

  8. I'm thrilled the graffiti was finally removed. I think it looks beautiful and I'm glad somebody even considered some level of care for this crumbling historic site.

  9. That building needs a huge fire so they can tear it down and build new condos.

  10. Fire threatened it before and it survived:

  11. I don't understand why people want it destroyed. There are tons of vacant or underutilized lots where you can build midrise condos (or have another Wilson Yards or Block 37). The Uptown is an important part of the community and Chicago's architecture, and it NEEDS to be restored and transformed into some kind of venue.

  12. Tear it down?!! Why not tear down your raging sense of stupidity.

    That building will likely be operating commercially within five years. With everything that is happening around there it is VERY likely.

    Tear it down. Bugger off. Be careful. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition. I may have to go all Monty Python on some of you.

  13. Hey Irish,

    Just curious, how long would you have that building lye there vacant before you would consider tearing it down? While there was some noise a few months ago about Jam purchasing the property, that story has run it's course. Jam probably looked into the restoration costs and discovered it would be cost prohibitive. These guys are "business" men. They have to make money. They also probably looked into the capacity of the theatre (around 5000). Where are you going to park all those cars? What acts are you going to put in there? Anyone who draws 5000 people will most likely perform at any of the larger venues already in existence. I love the Uptown theatre. When I first moved to Uptown 15 years ago, I, too, hoped beyond hope that the theatre could be salvaged. Now, I just don't know. So how long would you be willing to let that big box deteriorate as graf artsists tag it over and over again? Just curious.

  14. Why not wait until the thing is a danger to other people or neighboring buildings? It's not like we can expect something great to rise on that site anyway and it's not like Uptown lacks other space for new development.

  15. I would let it "lye" their for decades if necessary. It doesn't take much to secure it. Tuckpointing and roof work and heat. Which I know is expensive for a building that size.

    As for the "graf" artists they can be stopped if their is the will. It means devoting money and police resources and meaningful punishment.

    I own a "business" and I am fully aware of the need to make money. When some of the downtown theaters were renovated with taxpayer money there were complaints for years. Hell, I was beginning to think it was money wasted.

    I was wrong. Just one "show" like "Wicked" is generating nearly 8 million dollars a year in direct tax revenue. Plus all the indirect cash. The other downtown theaters are similarly successful.

    I don't expect the Uptown Theater to be a movie only palace. Even the Music Box Theatre has a difficult time making it and it is 20 percent the size.

    The Uptown will likely become a mixed use venue. Movies, live theater, restaurant,bar,shops etc.

    Imagine major TV talk shows filming at the Uptown for a week at a time. It happened in the past.

    The Lawrence EL stop needs to be renovated. Neighborhoods don't change overnight. I remember gangs in Lincoln Park. I remember Old Town as a dump. I remember a huge number of vacancies on Southport.

    Typically change is slow then a "tipping point" happens and change is rapid. I think we are past the "tipping point" around Lawrence and Broadway.

    Renovating the Uptown will undoubtedly take some government concessions as to taxes or subsidies.

    The Uptown should be looked at almost in the same way as an EL station or park. It brings something to a neighborhood and city that is hard to quantify in terms of dollars but is important.

    Millennium Park has literally contributed to billions of dollars in additional property values nearby. I don't believe the residential resurgence in that part of downtown would have been as strong without the park.

    The Uptown can have a similar if less pronounced effect on the neighborhood.

    If you tear it down tomorrow what are you going to put there?

    I don't see a great demand for condos at the moment.

    I guess time will tell.

  16. Irish what business do you own? Just curious?

    Something needs to happen to it either fix it up or tear it down and build something nice there. Why do people fall in love with buildings anyway. An empty structure is a black eye to any neighborhood.

    I would rather see it torn down and a nice structure replace it with residential and commerical than sit there emply and being tagged every damn week.

    But let's wait until Shiller is out or it would turn in to Cabrini North in Uptown with low income housing. LOL.

    I am not real sure we need another live music venue in Uptown either that is as big as the Uptown Theater.

  17. Shiller can't do a damn thing with the Uptown Theatre, either to renovate it or turn it into another housing project.

    It's in the 48th Ward....

    .... where, oddly enough, TIF funds seem to be used to restore classic buildings, and to add business and retail to a blighted neighborhood.

    (As opposed to the 46th, where the alderman apparently feels TIF funds should be earmarked to add blight to a gentrifying neighborhood.)

    Thank goodness for zoning. All the buildings that have been, or are now being, restored / renovated / enhanced around Lawrence & Broadway are in Mary Ann Smith's ward.

  18. I am almost in Mary Ann's ward how do change the ward maps so I can get in Mary Ann's ward?

  19. Hey Irish,

    I respect your reply as I am Irish too. And I am also a business owner in Uptown. Your first two paragraphs speak to money. Tuck pointing, heating and general up keep do require a significant amount of money for just one year, let alone a decade. Security to keep graf "artists" from tagging the wall also, as you say, requires money, alot of money.

    Furthermore, do you really expect a major Broadway musical to set up shop in Uptown? Seriously. The theatres you mention are "downtown", you know, where there are beautiful hotels and shopping on the magnificent mile. While I know all about the"tipping point", I really don't see anything remotely resembling the amenities downtown here in Uptown. You truly are talking about decades, several decades if at all.

    If, as you say, the Uptown turns into mixed use (theartre, reteraunts, shops, bars...) then one must assume they are going to carve up the interior. That being the case, you would destroy all the beautiful decor that makes people want to save the structure. Without the grand interior, you just have four graffiti littered walls.

    As for major TV shows, again, are you serious?

    True, the Lawrence El needs major work and I won't even go into Wilson El. Given the current state of the CTA, it could be years, if not decades, before any renovations are even considered.

    I don't want to date myself, and I am probably worthy of the rank of "swab" on your esteemed ship, but I also remember gangs in Lakeview (where I lived for a couple of years). Lakeview was never as bad as Uptown. Three people were murdered just days apart in Uptown. The Alderman is entrenched. And local business is dismal, to say the least.

    Having said that, I love Uptown. My business is here and I am raising a family here and I am not going anywhere! Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the Uptown theatre. I don't know what would take it's place, so to that I say "touche". I am certainly not recommending more condos (for the record).

  20. It would be nice if some of you "anonymous" people created identities here. Makes it easier to follow conversations and respond with my rapier wit and incisive commentary.

    My "business" is my own business. I prefer anonymity. Let's put it this way my business related taxes run to five figures a year. Some years I have wished my net income was as high.

    As for the Uptown Theater I don't expect it to hold Broadway productions. It could easily host a TV show for weeks of the year. Did it in the past.

    Conan in Chicago? Leno? Letterman?

    I do think that with time it MAY become a viable location for more entertainment related stuff. I think it is worth waiting. Maybe in time it will prove not to be economically viable. I don't think anyone can answer that question yet. One problem is that people speak with "certitude" on many issues. The future is hard to discern. The one thing that should be certain is "uncertainty".
    Just ask the neo cons on that and Iraq.

    I have no problem with more midrise condos in the area. We need the added density and middle income owners. Personally I would tear down that strip mall across from the post office on Broadway and put a midrise there over commercial. Talk about a waste of a good location.

    As to Shiller, the Uptown Theater is NOT in the 46th Ward. You will notice that all that lovely new business around Lawrence and Broadway is in the 48th ward. Five years ago if you had said all those places would be there you would have been accused of smoking crack purchased at the Wilson Avenue EL stop.

    As for the recent murders in Uptown they were seemingly unrelated and no more murders have occurred since. I would describe it as a statistical blip, but those who knew the deceased might not like that. It's similar but much more serious than sitting near a phone all day that doesn't ring and then suddenly you get 5 phone calls in 15 minutes. It doesn't mean you get 20 calls every hour.

    The number of murders in Uptown is relatively low. There tends to be well under 10 a year and they most often involve drug dealing.

    I also disagree that Lakeview wasn't all that bad in terms of crime. I can remember serious gang activity in parts of Lakeview well into the 90's. Hell Lincoln Park in the early 70's wasn't much better. Gangs were all over Halsted and Armitage. What we generally have in Uptown is minor compared to that.

    Although during the same time periods Uptown was much worse also.

    I guess we will just have to sit back and wait. To say "tear it down" strikes me as silly. But then again I am known as a visionary and romantic. Ahem.

  21. Pirate,

    Sorry for the anonymous. I was responsible for the two longer, well writen and insightful posts.

    I am awrae that the Uptown theatre is in the 48th ward, I was speaking about Uptown at large. Again, having lived in Lakeview in the early 90's, I must take exception to your statement about the amount of gang activity there. While there were spotty areas, it was nothing like Uptown today. There was no Wilson & Sheridan, Leland & Malden, Wilson and Broadway, Wilson & get the idea. I can not speak about Lincoln Park in the 80's as I was busy popping zits in suburbia. Sorry for the graphic and thanks


  22. Tear it down!!!!!

    I was half kidding it's fun to get you all rilled up.

    Actually that strip mall should be re-developed as should the one on Lawrence and Sheridan.

    But the Uptown is huge and is it viable?

  23. Tear down the Uptown????!!!!!!

    This is probably the most beautiful and opulant movie palace ever built in this country.

    I have seen the restored Fox in St. Louis, and the old St. Louis that is now Powell Symphony Hall, and well I remember the gorgeous Loews and Ambassador, now long gone. While those are refulgently gorgeous and unbelievably opulant, they don't hold a candle to the Uptown with its incomparable double lobbies and decorative details, or its sheer scale.

    We can no longer afford to throw stuff like this away, for it's not likely we will ever be able to replicate it, especially with our dimming energy prospects.

    Urban generic condos are a dime a dozen, and you will notice that there is a vast oversupply of cookie cutter new condos languishing on the market these days.

    There's only one Uptown.