Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sun-Times: Old Dreams For Uptown As Entertainment Mecca Finally Coming True?

The Aragon back in 1976, when Jerry Mickelson
was promoting the musical center of "Poptown"
at Lawrence & Broadway.
Earlier this week, Mayor-elect Emanuel mused about recreating Uptown's entertainment district as a major drawing card, the way it was in the 1920s. 

Today the Sun-Times has an article suggesting that the pieces may be in place for it to really, finally happen.  Alderman-elect Osterman, in whose district lie the Uptown and the Green Mill, says "It's very exciting that he's thinking about this early on."
"Back in 2000, the Urban Land Institute — a nonprofit land use research and consulting group — said an 'entertainment district' was key to kick-starting economic development in Uptown.  Keep supporting the Aragon Ballroom and the Green Mill, the report said, and restore the 'crown jewel' Uptown Theatre:  'Its restoration will be expensive and difficult, but the theater is a major historic and aesthetic treasure that must be retained.'"
The idea of Lawrence/Broadway as a music hub goes back even farther, according to the owner of the Uptown, Riviera and Aragon:
"Long before that study, concert promoter Jerry Mickelson ... tried to market the Uptown intersection of Broadway and Lawrence as a music destination. 'This is an idea we started back in 1975,' Mickelson, co-founder of Jam Productions, one of the city’s biggest concert promoters, said Thursday. 'We called it Poptown back then.'"

"The Broadway-Lawrence intersection in Uptown is included within another TIF district, but Mickelson says he’s not yet applied for funds to assist in the Uptown Theatre restoration."
Read the entire article here and dare to hope!


  1. And a touch more from the Trib at

  2. The riviera/aragon/uptown theatres are great and should be supported, but if Uptown is going to have a real, vibrant music scene what we need more are smaller venues that will attract local musicians and djs to the area.
    That is, some initiatives to help local people open venues and obtain licenses which are prohibitively expensive on the main Lawrence/Broadway corridors.

  3. I heard once that the Uptown Theater is not suited for big live productions due to its relatively small back stage area (for movie screen). Does anyone know more about this?

  4. One good thing about having the Rahmadammadingdong as "da mare" is that I don't think he has any problem confronting anyone who gets in the way of what he wants.

    If he decides that he wants an entertainment district at Lawrence and Broadway some of the property owners there will soon feel his bite.

    IF and it's a big IF Rahm wants it I think you will see the outside of the Riviera renovated fairly quickly. That "sheath" is an embarrassment.

  5. If TIF money is used to restore the Uptown Theater it shouldn't be for Mickelson and Jam Productions to charge 50$ a seat and skip to the bank with. Especially as they've been so repugnant to wait for that. I'm sure that's how the Chicago Theater worked for them.

    We need an Uptown variety show -- in the Uptown Theater.

    ...and a movie theater where the tire place is.

  6. apaul.....

    DJ's are not artists, they are people who play records and are not knowledgeable about making music. If they were knowledgeable they would be musicians and if they are musicians they are doing it because they can make some money from it and it's not what they prefer.

    They are such a pain and get in the way of real live music. They represent the lowest form of music production and that's true of all art in these times, everything is reduced to it's lowest form.

    Could you imagine Uptown being noted for it's fabulous DJ's music scene?

    A live music scene would be best for Uptown.

  7. apaul -- there is the kinetic playground that can cater to exactly djs and smaller venue-types. excellent location immediately east of the lawrence L.

  8. The more often this conversation gets brought up, the better for Uptown.

  9. I loved seeing the rather large picture of the Uptown Theatre in today's Sunday Tribune. It accompanied that article about the possible revitalization of our neighborhood into a new "music district."

    (6 Mar 2011; Arts & Entertainment section, pg 3) I couldn't find the same pic on their website, however.

    @Meg - right on w/the more conversation, the better!