Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Breaking News: Uptown Theatre Sold!

Update 7/30: From Crain's- Uptown Theatre Buyer Calls City Requirements 'Onerous'
Update #2: Check out "Clout City's" take on the sale of the Uptown Theatre
Update#3: Uptown Theatre Makes The News In The UK

From Chicago Real Estate Daily (Crain’s) — Without any drama, a venture led by concert promoter Jam Productions Ltd. bought the historic Uptown Theatre Tuesday for $3.2 million in a court-ordered foreclosure sale.

Jam principal Jerry Mickelson was the only bidder for the long-vacant theater at 4816 N. Broadway. The sale price was essentially a “credit bid” that covers repayment of about $1.8 million owed on a first mortgage and $1.4 million owed on a second mortgage that’s held by Mr. Mickelson’s group.

Mr. Mickelson, who has said he plans to restore the Uptown, declined comment at the sale.

The property’s ownership has been in dispute, and Mr. Mickelson — in a venture with Block 37 developer Joseph Freed & Associates LLC — began pushing for a foreclosure sale early last year when the venture acquired a defaulted $500,000 second mortgage on the theater.

A court must still approve the sale of the 4,500-seat theater. Mr. Mickelson’s attorney, Todd Rowden of Thompson Coburn Fagel Haber, says he expects there won’t be any objections and that the court will soon approve the sale.

“It went pretty smooth,” Mr. Rowden said after Tuesday’s sale. “Given the publicity, we were expecting some other bids.”

Jam competitors Live Nation Inc. and Madison Square Garden Entertainment both looked into buying the 1925 building, which was originally constructed as a movie palace. Jam in 2006 bought the Riviera Theatre down the street and also owns the Park West in Lincoln Park and the Vic Theatre in Lakeview, all music venues.

In addition to receiving court approval, Mr. Mickelson must also resolve some $1.8 million in liens that the city has against the Uptown related to maintenance work the city performed. That puts the total cost of the theater at roughly $5 million, a fraction of the $40 million that’s estimated to be required to renovate the building that’s lain fallow since closing in 1981.

Mr. Mickelson told the Chicago Tribune in a story published Tuesday that the restoration will require assistance from the city.


  1. I will throw some Viagra into Wilson Yard to see if the TIF can grow north of Lawrence.

  2. Well the fact that someone bought it is good, I guess. I'm more concerned with JAMs involvement however. What's to stop them from continuing to squat on it? They haven't felt the need to do anything since acquiring one of the liens several years ago. At least someone's put pressure on them to pony up.

  3. Jam will restore if the City kicks in millions and millions of TIF and other incentives.

    Otherwise they will just keep in empty so it isn't competition to them.

  4. Yes, I'm worried about this purchase. Seems that if Live Nation had bought it, it would have reflected a commitment to restoring it and using it to compete. But with JAM buying it, there is little incentive, as the restoration costs are likely to make the payback period far too long. We need to start putting pressure on the city NOW to approve funds for restoration, if we are to have any hope of seeing it re-opened in our lifetimes, as it's pretty clear JAM is expecting the large majority of the funding to come from the city.

  5. You are all missing something. Eminent Domain.

    Personally, I also suspect that JAM merely wants to keep the property out of another promoters hands. I could be wrong and they may change their "tune".

    In any case if they sit on it the city can "condemn" it and sell it to someone else.

    Let the battle begin.

  6. c,

    I'm more concerned with JAMs involvement however. What's to stop them from continuing to squat on it? They haven't felt the need to do anything since acquiring one of the liens several years ago.

    I corrected you once before on this misinformation. JAM's only connection with the theatre so far is to buy some of the debt. Until clear ownership was established (not until today), there was little JAM could legally do to the building. Besides, until they were guaranteed ownership, who could blame them for not investing any more money into the building?

    A Live Nation purchase would have had its own downside. I have some doubts about JAM's intentions, but guilty until proven innocent, okay?

  7. Jerry Mickelson, co-founder of Jam, said he’s eager to bring the Uptown back into action for live shows. "You can’t expect the private sector to do this alone," he said, noting that the city has subsidized the revival of the Oriental and Chicago theaters. "The Uptown is beautiful and it would be unfair to penalize it because it’s not downtown."

    Jam makes play for Uptown Theatre, Chicago Sun-Times, July 29, 2008

  8. I have heard that Jam will sit on it.

    They want the public to pay for it.

    Everyone felt live nation would be better.

    Why would jam do anything? They have the riviera....they don't need another venue for 40 million dollars...

    The city will fix it up....then Jam can sell it or just hold on to a expensive piece of real estate...

    This isn't so good

  9. the sun-times article upset me even more when i looked into the possible partner mentioned by JAM, joseph freed and associates. from their own website, it looks like they are mostly interested in residential and mixed-use facilities.

    here's their slogan on their website: "an entrepreneurial real estate company that develops, acquires, and operates retail and mixed-use properties nationally with dedication to long-term value creation." i don't know about you, but i think that says a lot about what THEIR plans are for a building like the uptown.

    here's a blog from someone who knows about this company:

    Heads up vendors, suppliers and others in the Madison, Wisconsin market: Joseph Freed & Associates is all about sticking it to you. Beyond changing the face and plans of their Hilldale project countless times and reneging on promises to retailers regarding the residential community they were going to bring them (there are no more plans for residential), they turn on their suppliers and leave them holding the bags on hundreds of thousands of dollars that, suddenly, after months and months, they either decide to contest or just don't pay. It's not just Madison either. Check out their history in Denver! Where are the Madison lawmakers in this?

    this all just looks horrible to me. i'm sick about it.

  10. I have heard that Jam will sit on it.

    You may have heard this, but it's unsubstantiated rumor.

    Everyone felt live nation would be better.

    There have also been rumors that Live Nation has been trying to tie up the Uptown so JAM couldn't get ahold of it. They didn't even bid on the Uptown, so it casts doubt on how serious a contender they were in the first place.

    Why would jam do anything? They have the riviera....they don't need another venue for 40 million dollars...

    The Uptown Theatre is more than double the size of the Riviera. JAM has said themselves that they need a bigger venue to remain competitive with Live Nation and others. They already have a lot of small and midsize venues, but not many large ones.

    The city will fix it up....then Jam can sell it or just hold on to a expensive piece of real estate...

    The auction is subject to approval, and approval is likely to have contingencies attached to it.

    This isn't so good

    Wait and see what happens--it could go either way. People would be asking many of the same questions if Live Nation had bought it. Even if this isn't good, it's still better than having the building tied up in court like it's been for the last 5+ years.

  11. thanks, uptownwalker. you cheered me up a bit.

  12. My "involvement" with the Uptown Theatre is rather peripheral, but here goes:

    (a) I saw a concert in early 1979, marvelled at the decor and regretted that it was clearly falling into disrepair.

    (b) While working at the old Bank of Ravenswood (now Chase, across from Sears), I had first-hand knowledge of how one of the most notorious slumlords in Uptown, through various barely-legal manoeuvers, gained "ownership" of the Uptown and allowed it to deteriorate via standard-slumlord-operating-procedures. Something tells me that Jam, or whoever, is going to have to deal with some 20 years of "clouds" on the title chain of this property.

    (c) I briefly joined one of the "Save Uptown" committees, only to be dismayed at the scandal concerning mishandling of funds by the management. Does anyone know how that finally shook out?

    (d) Hats off to anyone who can restore this landmark to its former splendor...but if they (re)build it, will people come?

  13. any suggestions on what this place should be next?