UPDATE: One year later: The Uptown Theatre status

The dream of a restored Uptown Theatre is awaiting additional fundraising before restoration can get underway.

A year ago, then Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to provide City funding to close the gap for the $75 million estimated to restore the theater. At that time, it was projected that $14 million would come from the State of Illinois’ Property Assessed Clean Energy Act; $13 million in TIF funds; $10 million in Build Illinois bond funding; $8.7 million in federal tax credits; and $3.7 million in the City of Chicago’s Adopt-a-Landmark funds. That left $26 million for JAM Productions and partner Farpoint Development to assemble.

Jerry Mickelson, co-owner of JAM Productions, at an April 2019 Chicago Architecture Center panel discussion on the Uptown Theatre, indicated that $40 million needs to be raised to complete the fundraising. He also suggested that he wants to see at least $20 million of that committed before restoration work can begin. He is working now to create a 501(c)(3) non-profit to develop a fundraising strategy and take over ownership of the building.

While some had hoped work would begin in the summer or fall of 2019, Mickelson’s latest projections are now looking at 2020. He still hopes to have the theater open for business in 2021.

Preservation Chicago believes that with the funds raised to date, work on restoration of the building’s exterior should begin as soon as possible to seal the external envelope and prevent further deterioration from occurring.

Fans of the Uptown Theatre and Uptown residents hoping to see additional economic development spurred by the theater’s restoration will need to extend their wait, but if Mickelson comes through with his plans the final result will be extraordinary.

Designed by the architectural team of Rapp & Rapp, the Balaban & Katz theater at 4816 N. Broadway was built in 1925. It is a Chicago Landmark, designated in 1991. It has been vacant in 1981, with numerous plans for redevelopment over the last nearly four decades unraveling along the process.

Additional Reading
or more on the April panel discussion on the Uptown Theatre

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