THREATENED: TimeLine Theatre Decides to Scrap Reebie Building Historic Façade

Proposed Timeline Theater at Reebie Building, 5033 N. Broadway. Rendering Credit: HGA

“TimeLine Theatre Company is moving forward with its relocation from Lakeview to Uptown, where it plans to overhaul a warehouse into a modern theater and arts center, according to renderings released this week.
“TimeLine unveiled its plans for the space Monday, more than two years after it bought the building at 5033 N. Broadway. The designs include a theater, gallery area, bar and cafe, plus offices and classroom space.
“The company bought the Uptown building in late 2018, seeking a bigger space than the 99-seat theater at its longtime home at 615 W. Wellington Ave. Now it needs a zoning change from the city to put its plans into motion.
“TimeLine’s plans call for a major renovation of the 100-year-old Broadway building, plus a 15-foot addition into the neighboring vacant lot.
“The theater company also wants to remove the former warehouse building’s classic façade and replace it with a modern, glassy front that will bring art to the public, TimeLine Artistic Director PJ Powers said.
“Earlier renderings of the Uptown TimeLine Theatre building included a retaining of the traditional façade.
“Above the bar would be a a 250-seat theater, which would be customizable for stage productions. There will also be art education space. Dressing rooms, production space and offices would be situated at the rear of the building.
“Alderman Osterman will have a second meeting on the project June 28, and members of the public will be able to weigh in on the proposal. He’s not said whether he’ll support the zoning change.
“If TimeLine gets approval from Osterman and eventually City Council, its officials hope to open the doors of the Uptown building in late 2023.” (Ward, Block Club Chicago, 6/16/21)
For years, Preservation Chicago has been committed to helping arts and cultural users find new homes in historic buildings. The synergy between creative uses and historic spaces is well documented and these developments often evolve into beloved neighborhood anchors.
We have strongly supported the renovation of historic theater spaces in Uptown such as the Uptown Theatre, The Riviera, and Aragon Ballroom. We strongly supported the Double Door’s renovation and reuse of the Wilson Avenue Theater. We have supported the Lifeline Theater coming to Uptown and adding to the vibrancy of this reemerging entertainment and performing arts district
We were elated in summer 2019 with the rendering released by TimeLine showing this building restored on its exterior primary elevation fronting Broadway, with a new vertical blade sign. It was an ideal fit for a theatre reuse concept, where large windows are really not required as part of the program of the theater. It was a creative and authentic revisioning project for one of Chicago’s historic storage buildings.
We were very disappointed by the more recent design changes, which include a complete replacement of the principal façade fronting Broadway. The powerful dynamism that comes from the authenticity of historic buildings is lost when the historic façade is demolished and replaced with a generic glass and metal system. So many creative options have been overlooked by abandoning the historic façade.
This decision seems surprising considering how hard the Uptown community has worked to revitalize Broadway. We encourage decision makers at Lifeline Theater, community groups, and 48th Ward Ald. Harry Osterman to find a creative way to embrace and incorporate the historic façade into the development plans.
Additional studies should be performed to explore retaining this historic façade, with its beautifully crafted brickwork and detailing. The modernist screening proposed in the latest variations could be employed on the other elevations of the building to provide a “fresh image” but without compromising the Broadway façade.

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