“After a years-long effort to revitalize Congress Theater stalled and fizzled last year, another developer has stepped forward to take over the beloved Logan Square venue, which has sat empty for nearly a decade.
“Baum Revision, a Chicago-based developer with a reputation for restoring historical buildings including the Green Exchange and Margies Candies buildings, is ‘seriously exploring’ reviving the Congress, Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) told Block Club this week.
“La Spata said Baum is looking to pick up where Moyer left off and execute most of the redevelopment plan approved by the city in 2018. Those plans called for a complete restoration of the theater; construction of a 30-room hotel, 14 affordable apartments and 16,000 square feet of retail space in the surrounding 160,000-square-foot theater building.
“‘There are aspects of this that still need to come together, but it’s an exciting plan,’ La Spata said.
“Right now, the Baum team is focused on securing financing to rehab the theater, La Spata said. Restoring the deteriorating nearly century-old theater will be costly; the project under Moyer was expected to cost at least $69 million.
“While Baum officials haven’t shown him a financial plan, La Spata said he’s “optimistic” the development firm can pull off a project of this scale given their history successfully restoring several historical buildings in the city and across the Midwest. In addition to the Margies Candies and Green Exchange buildings, Baum has redeveloped structures such as the 1920s Marmon building in the South Loop and a turn-of-the-century sugar beet processing warehouse in Madison, Wisconsin, among others.
“Built in 1926 as an ornate movie palace, the Congress Theater hosted everyone from Chuck Berry to Jerry Lee Lewis in its heyday. It’s been empty since the city shut it down in 2013 following a string of code violations and crimes that occurred in and around the theater during shows.
“‘It’s still a possibility to invest TIF dollars into this project, but we do want to hear the community on that,’ La Spata said. ‘We want to hear from folks about what are the kinds of benefits they want to see for the community that makes that public investment worthwhile.’ (Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 5/24/21)
Preservation Chicago and Logan Square Preservation have long advocated on behalf of the Congress Theater. We played a important role in advocating its Landmark Designation and encouraging its reuse. We hope that this renovation effort is successful.
Congress Theater Redevelopment Is Back On, Alderman Says, As Developer Steps In To Overhaul Historic Venue; Baum Revision, the developer that restored the Green Exchange and Margies Candies buildings, is “seriously exploring” reviving the Congress, Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) said, Mina Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 5/24/21