THREATENED: Congress Theater Restoration In Jeopardy After Developer Losses Property

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Congress Theatre, 1926, Lubliner and Trinz Theater designed by Fridstein and Company, 2135 N. Milwaukee Avenue. Photo Credit: Debbie Mercer

Congress Theatre, 1926, Lubliner and Trinz Theater designed by Fridstein and Company, 2135 N. Milwaukee Avenue. Photo Credit: Debbie Mercer

“Around the same time the lawsuit became public, a judge appointed a receiver to ‘care for’ the 1920s theater, which has fallen into disrepair, said Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), whose ward includes the Congress. Receivers are appointed to protect a property during a pending lawsuit.

“‘My office and I are working with the receiver to understand the scope of repairs they can make on the theater, and they have outlined a plan for securing the building and ensuring the safety of adjacent neighbors and passersby,’ La Spata said in a statement.

“Peter Strazzabosco, spokesman for the city’s Planning and Development Department, said the city is taking offers from other developers. The department ‘will continue to respond to market interest in the property and support viable efforts to reopen the theater and its adjacent retail and residential spaces,’ Strazzabosco said in a statement.

“Strazzabosco also said while Moyer received city approval to redevelop the old movie palace, his formal redevelopment agreement with the city — the very last step in a lengthy process — never closed. Because of that, the $9.7 million in Tax Increment Finance dollars the city awarded the project in 2018 was never issued to Moyer, Strazzabosco said.

“Locals have long been anxious to see the Congress Theater overhauled. In fact, it’s one of the most-asked about development projects in the 1st Ward, said La Spata, who took office in May 2019. The historic theater has sat vacant since the city ordered it closed in 2013 following a string of code violations.

“Moyer’s journey to redevelop the Congress started in 2015, when he bought the theater for $16 million with the goal of bringing it back to its former glory. The developer has experience overhauling historic theaters; he redeveloped the Cadillac Palace Theatre and Hotel Allegro in the late 1990s.

“‘We all had a tremendous amount of hope when Michael Moyer’s plan came along that we’d see a rejuvenated Congress Theater,’ said Andrew Schneider, president of Logan Square Preservation. ‘It’s disturbing that the finances of Michael Moyer seem to be in peril and the building sits vacant.’

“‘There’s no reason the apartment component couldn’t be rehabbed and tenanted,’ Schneider said. ‘There are other options for the property.’

“Built in 1926 as an ornate movie palace, the Congress Theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. In its heyday, everyone from Chuck Berry to Jerry Lee Lewis graced its stage.” (Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 11/30/20)

The Congress Theater was designated a Chicago Landmark in 2002 with the extensive and persistent support of Preservation Chicago, Logan Square Preservation and the Richard Nickel Committee. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. Additionally, Preservation Chicago has worked diligently to encourage its restoration. This current setback is disappointing.

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago

Congress Theater Overhaul Plan Apparently Dead After Developer Defaults — Now, City Seeks Other Options; A court-appointed receiver has taken over the building from developer Michael Moyer, who had big plans to return the historic Logan Square theater to its former glory, Mina Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 11/30/20

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