Thursday, May 16, 2013

Uptown & Its Future In The Spotlight

Wednesday night reporter Randi Belisomo of WGN presented more of her series on the Uptown Theater and the proposed Uptown Entertainment District, and there's a lot to take in:
  • Will Uptown's Music District Find A Rhythm in Uptown? was on the WGN News At Nine.  A transcript and the video are here.
  • At 10pm, CLTV did a half-hour live special called Creating a Music District, with Jerry Mickelson of Jam Productions (owner of the Uptown Theater), Dave Jemilo of the Green Mill, and 46th Ward alderman James Cappleman.  It's split into several segments online:  Part One, Viewer Questions & Comments, and Closing Thoughts.
  • There's an interview with the Mayor about the creation of the Entertainment District and the Uptown music scene.  He mentions the Truman Parking Garage, the lighting that will come with the modernized Wilson L station, the Broadway and Argyle streetscaping, and the Entertainment District, and how he believes these will all come together to spur development, such as more restaurants and businesses.  The entire interview is about nine minutes long.
  • There's an interview with Ric Addy called A Peek Inside Shake Rattle & Read.
  • All the stories, from Tuesday and Wednesday, and the extras, can be found on one page:
  • In addition, there will be a discussion open to the public later this month:


  1. I thought Dave Jemilo was being a hardass all evening. Will it impact him? Sure. At the same time, he sounded like every other NIMBY. He just wants to keep all potential profits for himself. Can JAM do more? Of course. Hearing Jerry Mickelson say that renovation of the Riviera was waiting on the formation of the Entertainment District was kind of a copout answer. How long has the Riv needed facade work, and how long has this proposed E.D. been a thing? Yah, the Riv was way older. Dave: shut up. Jerry: thanks for buying the Uptown, now do something with at least one of your venues to show you're serious. James: I want to hear more about that future announcement about security. Will it be just more cops or something more comprehensive?

    Lastly, and this has been thrown around a lot, CAN WE PLEASE JUST GET THE LOBBY RESTORED AND OPENED FOR TOURS AND EVENTS?!?! That alone would make the naysayers shut up, at least partly, and really mean business and revenue starting to flow back into the Uptown Theatre.

  2. Glad to see the publicity, but I wasn't under the impression that Uptown needed "saving," just some polishing.

  3. I thought Dave sounded like a jerk too. The Green Mill is a treasure and may not need any help but the rest of his neighbors aren't in the same boat. Marigold moved to Andersonville because it needed more foot traffic and now it's thriving. The Annoyance is looking to go back to Lakeview for the same reasons.
    That comment about the Riv work being contingent on the larger plan tells us that Jam doesn't have the money to do it, period. Is waiting for the city to kick in. I really hope some of this happens but it's stacking up like a house of cards...

  4. My question is, would neighborhoods like Lincoln Park or Lakeview put up with having plastic cover a large portion of a major building for years, as has happened at the Riviera? Are there no government regulations stating that this should be fixed within x amount of time or fines kick in? JAM, in my opinion, is basically holding Uptown hostage for its own profit model. If they don't have the money to fix it, they should be forced to sell it to someone that does.

    Again, would any other neighborhood put up with their graffiti (see Uptown theatres upper floors), 200 foot long garbage bags on their roofs at the Riviera or craptastic parking lots at Lawrence and Winthrop? What about all the garbage their folks drop all over the residential neighborhoods? JAM is not a good neighbor to Uptown and I hope someone higher up forces their hand and starts having higher expectations for those that are handling Uptowns Jewels. If Lakeview can force the Ricketts to listen to them, why cant we have the same expectations of JAM?

  5. What's up with the owner of the Green Mill acting like a douche?

  6. I worked on the Uptown Theater issues for the City and it was a mess! JAM owning it was a good deal.

  7. Brian Bobcat, ten or so years ago, maybe more, the Uptown asked for volunteers to clean it so that tours could be given. A city inspector came in to make sure it was safe and a piece of plaster fell and nearly hit him. That was the end of that idea, not safe enough for tours. No events are possible right now because there is no running water, eg, no food prep, no bathrooms, etc. Until money is found to make it safe and have running water turned on, nothing will happen. You have a good idea, but without some big money, not even the lobby can be used.

  8. TrumanSquareNabr: While I had never heard that story, I have no doubt that there's more than a handful of code violations in the Uptown. We've all heard about the water pipe break, and in the WGN piece, the caretaker talked about how all the plaster would need to be recast.

    I remember the idea, but not the facts, about the small section of the lobby that was repaired a handful of years ago. Does anyone have the facts (year done, how long it took, cost?) just for that one tiny section? What I meant with my comment was that if the whole Uptown needs $80 million in repairs, then the lobby would be at most...$10M? At least...$1M? If we could get some progress made, how about the facade as Uptown Superhero said, so that it will visually look up kept? Afterall, even if we got the lobby restored, who would want to hold their wedding there if the outside looks abandoned? The theatre has an owner, more than could be said several years ago, now it's time for action.

    Of all the Mayor's plans for improving select neighborhoods in Chicago, this has to be the one with the most promise for real, permanent, job creation, not just construction jobs. The time is now!

  9. Hey all. Dave's not a douche. He's a really great businessman who had the stones to invest in this neighborhood before many of you. He's supported many risky cultural endeavors (The Slam, Paper Machete, regular jazz fer Chrissakes), not to mention providing the seed money for spoken word events like the Big Goddess Pow Wow at Metro in the 90s.
    If the math is bothersome to him, it's probably because it is. What is the flaw in the plan that he sees that we don't?

  10. Jerry Mickelson - basically wants to the city to foot the bill for this - no surprise there. I liked the facebook comment accusing JAM of being poor stewards of their current buildings - THEY ARE - and they are pretty careless neighbors. Take a look at how they stage the lines for their concerts - blocking the south sidewalk on Lawrence and all the way down the 4700 block of Magnolia. When the crowds finally get in - their trash is all over the street. And the facade on the Riviera - really? Come on Jerry, get on it and get it fixed.

    Dave - I'm speechless. He seems like he wants the Green Mill on its own little island where he is control of everything. He gets upset about telling people to be quiet when they are at his bar? Buddy - you own a bar. Get over yourself.

    James - I know where your heart is, but lets see less talk and more action. This plan has been hashed and rehashed for years ad naseum. Let's see something. At least work with JAM to clean up the front of the Riv and the false facade on the Uptown. The general area of Lawrence and Broadway needs a facelift. There are few trees, planters or greenery in that general vacinity to make it attractive. For God sake's, the light poles could use a coat of paint. If we won't see the Uptown open for several more years, lets at least start with the small things.

  11. Jeff, you realize that Cappleman isn't even the alderman for the Uptown Theater yet, right? It's still in the 48th Ward until the city decides to start honoring its own redrawn ward boundaries. JAM had a very contentious relationship with Mary Ann Smith, so maybe that's why nothing was done sooner.

    Re the facelift around Lawrence & Broadway, they did mention street-scaping, didn't they? I don't know anything about that, but it sounds promising.

  12. Historic terra cotta theatre fa├žade in Lake View illustrates the risks to ongoing Chicago's built heritage, despite chronic statements of commitment to preservation on the part of so many people:

    New owners need education about terra cotta might start by visiting the National Building Museum if they won't believe Chicagoans that it is a hugely valuable material, aesthetically, for low-cost ambient streetlighting (before overbright expensive streetlights overpowered its amazing night-time glow), and for fireproofing.