POTENTIAL WIN: Congress Theater Restoration Gaining Momentum

“The newest developer trying to overhaul Congress Theater wants to reopen the historic venue by summer of 2023, taking the reins on plans to revive the space that’s been sitting empty for nearly a decade.
“Baum Revision, a local developer known for restoring historic buildings, is taking over the redevelopment project after a previous effort to revitalize the Congress fell through. Baum is planning to redevelop the landmark theater at 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave., as well as the surrounding apartments and retail space, using the blueprint approved by the city in 2018.
“If everything goes according to plan, the development team aims to begin construction “toward the end” of 2021, David Baum, one of Baum’s managing principals, said at a community meeting Monday. From there, construction is expected to take somewhere between 18 months and two years, Baum said.
“‘We’re coming into a project that unfortunately didn’t come to fruition. Frankly, I give a lot of credit to the guy who attempted to do it. I think he’s a good guy, I think he tried hard … he did a lot of good work and we’re picking it up from there,’ Baum said.
“Now Baum is working to assume control of the building and pick up where Moyer left off. The plans call 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. Baum is not planning, however, to build an 72-unit apartment tower next door, a component of Moyer’s project that received fierce pushback from neighbors.
“Built in 1926 as an ornate movie palace, the Congress Theater hosted everyone from Chuck Berry to Jerry Lee Lewis in its heyday. But in 2013, after years of negligence on the part of previous owners, the city shut down the historic venue following a string of code violations and crimes that occurred in and around the theater during shows.
“Baum said they aim to fully restore all of the venue’s original architectural details while also updating elements of the building that have badly deteriorated over the years. Under the city-approved plans, the original “Congress Theater” sign would be replaced.
“‘This is a treasure,’ Baum said while showing residents renderings of the venue’s ornate lobby. “This is a really big privilege for us to be able to work on something like this. What an amazing project and property this is, and I think it’ll be an amazing asset to the community.'” (Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 6/29/21)
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.

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