In a record year of optimism for some of the Midwest’s most notorious and perennially vacant buildings, the City of Chicago, along with Jam Productions and Fairpoint Development, has announced that the lights will turn back on at Chicago’s Uptown Theatre after almost four decades of vacancy. The $75 million restoration project will be the catalyst in one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s early campaign promises to create a sustainable and lucrative entertainment district in Uptown slated to rival others downtown. Restoration of the Uptown Theatre is enhanced by a surge in infrastructure improvements to the neighborhood, including a $203 million restoration of the nearby Wilson Avenue CTA Red Line station and forthcoming renovations to both the Lawrence and Argyle CTA Red Line Stations. An additional $6 million has been allotted for street improvements already underway. According to a press release, city assistance for the Uptown restoration includes $14 million in Property Accessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, $13 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, and $3 million from the cities Adopt-A-Landmark fund. The remainder of the $75 million is expected to come from private financing sources. Shortly after his election in 2011, Mayor Emanuel began speaking of creating a music and entertainment district anchored by the Uptown, the Riviera Theatre, the Aragon Ballroom, and the Green Mill, forming a nonprofit to back public-private infrastructure projects, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT). The organization arranged for a purchasing agreement with Jam Productions in an attempt to turn the Uptown into a non-profit, but the effort ultimately failed. Jam Productions acquired the structure in 2008 through a judicial sale. Built in 1925, the Uptown Theatre was designed by architects Cornelius W. and George L. Rapp for the Balaban and Katz theater chain. Rapp and Rapp were incredibly prolific in Chicago, designing all of the city's well-known vaudeville theaters from the time period, including the Rivera Theatre, the Chicago Theatre, the Bank of America Theatre (originally the Majestic), the Oriental Theatre and the Cadillac Palace (originally the New Palace Theatre). The Uptown Theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, is a Chicago Landmark, and contributes to a landmark district. In an unlikely story of preservation by neglect, the Uptown has been dark since the J. Geils Band played a concert there in December 1981. While no immediate plans for demolition have ever faced the Uptown Theatre, a lifetime of deferred maintenance and its seemingly constant flux in ownership have kept the building on the radar of Chicago preservationists, as well as organizations like Preservation Chicago, Landmarks Illinois, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Friends of the Uptown, a non-profit organization not affiliated with the restoration, was formed by community volunteers in 1998. The Uptown Theatre found itself in the winter of 2014 with its heat turned off, causing a 30-foot icicle to form in the basement. The building’s decades of vacancy along with its size—4,600 square feet across three levels—begs multiple questions. With the effects of 37 years without general upkeep to address, $75 million may not be enough to bring the Uptown back to modern standards. Restoration has been given a 2020 completion date, a tall order for a structure with complex architectural elements in various states of disrepair.
Posts tagged with "Rapp & Rapp":
The lights on the Loew's Kings Theater's marquee have been dark for over 35 years since the last showing of Islands in the Stream in 1977. In fact, the entire king-size, 3,200-seat, French-Baroque movie palace is looking quite dim these days, much of its ornate plasterwork worn, damaged, or missing from years of decay and neglect and its terra-cotta facade in need of cleaning. City officials had to string ropes of temporary construction lights through the still grandiose, if a little shabby, lobby, just to make the announcement on Wednesday that Brooklyn's largest indoor theater is coming back to life in a big way thanks to $93.9 million in new investment from public and private sources. Built in 1929, Chicago-based firm Rapp & Rapp's design of Loew's Kings Theater was inspired by the Paris Opera House, its lobby featuring a flowing mahogany and marble staircase even Charles Garnier could admire. Loew's Kings is one of the five decadently ornate "Wonder Theaters" built around New York City, representing the theater-operator's flagship venues and designed in eclectic styles from Cambodian Neo-Classical to Rococo and Atmospheric villa courtyards. (Be sure to check out AN's photos of the theater from our tour in 2011.) It was at the foot of the Kings' grand staircase that Mayor Bloomberg joined other city officials to announce the groundbreaking of the restoration effort, which is expected to return to theater to its original glory and open it to performances by 2014. The city has owned the theater since 1983, when it was seized in lieu of tazxes. Over the years, the roof has been sealed up and some structural problems fixed—just enough to keep the building mothballed for future restoration. In response to a 2008 RFP, Houston-based ACE Theatrical Group was selected by the NYC Economic Development Corporation to refurbish the theater. ACE has previously restored other historic theaters, including the Boston Opera House and the noteworthy Chicago Theater, also designed by Rapp & Rapp. The company has been working to restore the Kings' interior for several years now, but with a new 55-year lease granted to the Kings Theater Redevelopment Corporation, a consortium including ACE, Goldman Sachs, and the National Development Council, full-scale restoration can begin. Plans call for expanding the facility from 68,000 square feet to 93,000 square feet to accommodate a larger back-stage area for live performances. When it opens in 2014, Loew's Kings Theater (1027 Flatbush Avenue) is expected to show 200 to 250 events per year, contributing to an overall resurgence of Flatbush Brooklyn.