Chicago News: Chicago Mayor Emanuel Announces Plan to Reopen Historic Uptown Theatre

Chicago News: Chicago Mayor Emanuel Announces Plan to Reopen Historic Uptown Theatre

$75 Million Restoration and Redevelopment Project Will Revitalize Uptown Theatre and Make it the Centerpiece of a Redeveloped Uptown Entertainment District

CHICAGO, IL – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel yesterday joined Ald. James Cappleman, Jam Productions and Farpoint Development to announce Chicago’s historic Uptown Theatre will be restored and reopened as the crown jewel of a revitalized Uptown entertainment district.  The 93-year-old landmark building, vacant for more than 35 years, will be used for a variety of live performances and special events.  The $75 million project fulfills a commitment the Mayor made in his first term.

“The Uptown Theater has been a staple of the Uptown neighborhood’s past, and will be a strong asset for the community’s future,” Mayor Emanuel said.  “The restored theater will be the centerpiece of the new, revitalized Uptown entertainment district, giving residents and visitors another way to experience world-class culture and entertainment in one of the City’s most storied neighborhoods.”

The joint venture between Jam, one of the Chicago’s area’s largest concert promotors, and Farpoint, an experienced Chicago-based real estate developer, will comprehensively restore the Spanish Revival-style building as modern entertainment venue.  Interior improvements will include new elevators and concession stations, new mechanical, electrical, plumbing and life-safety systems. Restored decorative finishes, new seats and a reconfigured first-floor will increase total capacity from approximately 4,100 to 5,800 people.  Exterior work will repair the building’s masonry and terra cotta and improve marquees and related signage, among other repairs and improvements.

In addition to the redevelopment project, a comprehensive streetscape plan will help identify the urban entertainment district around the Uptown and Riviera theatres and the Aragon Ballroom.  The $6 million project includes improvements to portions of Broadway, Lawrence, Wilson and Argyle, with a new pedestrian plaza, sculpture and public stage on the 4700 block of North Racine.  Streetscape construction will be finished this summer.

“We have assembled an all-star team with Farpoint Development to reopen the doors of one of the most amazing live entertainment palaces in the country,” Jam owner Jerry Mickelson said.  “This opportunity represents more than just restoring a theatre since this rejuvenation will create an immense economic impact on Chicago’s North Side.  The Uptown Theatre will be the catalyst to spur development in the Uptown Entertainment District that will help create jobs, attract restaurants along with commercial and retail establishments as well as other entertainment venues.”

“Farpoint Development could not be prouder than to partner with Jerry Mickelson and Jam Productions in the renovation of the Uptown Theater,” Farpoint founder Scott Goodman said.  “Opportunities to restore architectural gems like the Uptown are rare. To be able to do it in a diverse and flourishing neighborhood like Uptown makes it that much more exciting.”

Planned City assistance for the theater restoration includes $14 million in PACE financing, $13 million in Tax Increment Financing and $3 million in Adopt-A-Landmark funds.  The PACE funding is being made available through the State of Illinois’ Property Assessed Clean Energy Act, which enables building owners to make energy-related building improvements that are paid over time through special assessments on the property.

Additional funding sources are anticipated to include $30 million in equity and conventional financing, $10 million in Build Illinois Bond funding, and $8.7 million in federal tax credits.

With “an acre of seats” served by three separate lobbies, the Spanish Revival-style structure was the world’s largest theater building when it opened in 1925 at 4816 N. Broadway.  Designed by architects Rapp and Rapp for operator Balaban and Katz Corp., the Uptown was used for stage shows, movies and special events into the 1970s, when it was primarily used for touring musical acts.  Since closing to the public in 1981, the building’s interior spaces have been periodically used for film productions.

The City of Chicago has worked to protect and preserve the building for several decades.  In 1991, it was designated a City of Chicago landmark to preserve its exterior and interior from alteration or demolition.  In 2001, the Lawrence/Broadway TIF district was designated to help fund repairs and maintenance, for which $1.4 million has been allocated to date.  In 2005, the City established a compliance agreement with a former owner that ensured the structure would be maintained and monitored through regular engineering reports and court dates.  The compliance agreement continues to apply to its current owner, Jam, which purchased the building in 2008.

Redevelopment agreement details will be finalized this summer and presented this fall to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, the Community Development Commission and the Chicago City Council for review and approval.  Restoration work would start later this year and be completed in 2020.

“Given its past, size and potential impact on the City’s cultural landscape, the Uptown will be one of the most significant restoration projects in the city’s history,” said Department of Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman.  “It’s reopening will introduce hundreds of thousands of people to one of Chicago’s great performance spaces, as well as one of its most historic neighborhoods.”

A partnership between Chicago Public Schools and After School Matters will provide students with opportunities to visit the theater during and after construction as part of field trips, special events and fine arts classes.

Public transit access to the theater will be enhanced by the $203 million renovation of Uptown’s Wilson Avenue CTA station and the planned renovation of the Lawrence and Argyle CTA stations, part of a $2.1 billion initiative to expand the North Side capacity of the CTA’s Red and Purple lines.

In the ’20s and ’30s, the Uptown neighborhood’s entertainment venues could accommodate 25,000 people, making it the largest entertainment district in Chicago outside of the Loop, according to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, which in 2016 coordinated the area’s designation as an official landmark district.  Uptown entertainment venues today include the Aragon Ballroom, Riviera Theatre, Green Mill jazz lounge and Uptown Underground cabaret.

Other nearby public and private projects include recent renovations of the 1920s-era Gerber Building and Lawrence House, and more than 1,800 new and rehabilitated, mixed-income residential units planned for Broadway, Lawrence, Wilson, Kenmore and Clarendon avenues.


SOURCE: news provided by CITYOFCHICAGO.ORG on June 29, 2018

Chicago News: Chicago Mayor Emanuel Announces Plan to Reopen Historic Uptown Theatre

Last Picture Show? Struggles continue more than a year after Lincoln Square Theatre’s final show

Last Picture Show? Struggles continue more than a year after Lincoln Square Theatre’s final show

DECATUR — More than a year since the iconic Lincoln Square Theatre closed its doors in downtown Decatur, there’s no reopen date in sight as the theater’s leadership continues to grapple with financial challenges. 

Theater board President Greg Sullivan said he faces a Catch-22: The board needs more money to restore the century-old theater, but they can’t host any revenue-generating shows until they find the cash to repair a busted boiler. 

“Until we can get that addressed, we are pretty much sitting still,” he said, adding he did not have an exact dollar amount to replace the boiler. “We’re putting plans together, but we cannot really start a capital campaign until we have the theater open. People won’t donate until they see this thing operating.”

Sullivan told the Herald & Review in November that this year would be dedicated to filling open spots on the 12-member board and raising money to address pressing issues, including the boiler. As of Friday, the board had eight members — two fewer than it did in November. 

By the 1980s, the theater had become too dilapidated to host shows, with renovations finally beginning in the 1990s.


Lincoln Square Theatre

The marquee for the Lincoln Square Theatre on Thursday, June 28. The century-old theater has sat empty for more than a year, with the marquee now used as a form of advertising for interested parties.

In 2002, the state granted the Lincoln $3.5 million for renovations but didn’t deliver the full amount until 2005. At that time, the theater had seats missing, paint and plaster falling off the wall, a damaged stage and no fire escapes. The first phase of renovations corrected these problems, as well as adding air conditioning and lighting, fixing bathrooms and dressing rooms and repairing the marquee.

The theater closed in 2005 for additional renovations and has been open on and off ever since. It sat dormant for more than a year between 2014 and 2015 before the board decided to begin offering more events to generate revenue.

The theatre board lost its tax-exempt status in 2014 after it failed to file a Form 990-series return or notice for three consecutive years, according to Internal Revenue Service records. The most recent filing available for review from 2010. Sullivan said the paperwork to restore its tax-exempt status should be completed by the end of the year.

As the behind-the-scenes work continues, the theater has gone quiet across social media.

The group has not posted on its official Facebook page since May 8, 2017. That post, attributed to theater staff, said it was only closed “for the time being” as they regrouped and came up with new ideas. The post also promised the website “will be up within the week” to offer updates.


Lincoln Square Theatre website

The Lincoln Square Theatre website is shown on Friday, June 29.

However, the URL is not available for sale, according to multiple sites that check domain availability.

Sullivan declined Herald & Review requests for a tour of the building, saying insurance prevented anyone but certain board members from going inside. 

Members of Decatur’s art scene still hold out hope for the future of the theater, which as recently as 2013 hosted a Decatur Celebration kick-off concert featuring novelty funk band Here Come the Mummies. 

Celebration producer Lori Sturgill said her experience has shown her that Decatur can be just as passionate about live shows as those in Springfield and Champaign, and she sees no reason why a restored Lincoln could not thrive.

“I think a venue that historic in our community is a treasure, that we’d love to be able to utilize in a modern way,” Sturgill said.

The Lincoln is one of two century-old theatres in downtown Decatur. The nearly 102-year-old Avon Theater is still in operation as a movie theatre.

Sullivan, who has served on the Lincoln board for two years, said he wasn’t concerned with the past pattern of failed efforts to restore the theater. He said he was determined to focus on establishing a capital campaign and applying for potential grants that could make the space usable.

“I know for us, we’re not about returning it to museum quality,” he said. “We just want to get the doors open again.”

The Missing Movies: 3 “Lost” Icelandic Films, For Your Non-Viewing Pleasure

The Missing Movies: 3 “Lost” Icelandic Films, For Your Non-Viewing Pleasure

Published June 29, 2018

As many Icelandic and Icelandophilic film-nerds know, finding copies of obscure films made here is a hassle. Despite streaming sites like and the occasional remastered DVD, a lot of the time you’ll have to settle for a library VHS copy, or a murky online bootleg.

The reasons for this are several. Firstly, many of the films are simply out of print. The Icelandic Film Museum has been on a mission to restore old films; in 2016 they premiered a beautiful remastering of the 1986 thriller “Morðsaga” (“Murder Story”) on the film’s 20th anniversary.

The second reason could be a lack of interest from the filmmakers in letting their old experiments see the light of day again. In some cases, this might be because the film is somehow seen as embarrassing, such as Júlíus Kemp’s Gregg Araki-esque classic “Blossi/810551.” There’s a Facebook group demanding a digital restoration, but besides cult items, there’s not usually enough demand to make reissues viable.

The most important (and boring) reason is copyright. Erlendur Sveinsson, head of The Icelandic Film Museum says: “In accordance with the Museum’s policy, we’re restoring the films that need it so they can be made available. Until now, the museum hasn’t had the resources to restore films properly for future release.”

Erlendur says many important silent films from the first part of the 20th century are missing. Internationally, some say only 25% of silent films survived. In Iceland, another casualty is art-house and experimental cinema.

We’ve compiled three essential “lost” Icelandic films for your viewing or non-viewing pleasure:

Oxsmá-plánetan (“The Oxsmá Planet,” 1983)
Oxsmá was a legendary psychobilly band in the 80s, known for their hijinks around town and their infamous 1985 song and video “Kittý.” One of the country’s favourite filmmakers, Óskar Jónasson, started his career blowing a mean sax for the band. They made two films in the 80s, “Sjúgðu mig Nína” (“Suck Me, Nína”) and the sci-fi horror short “The Oxsmá Planet.” The latter sounds like a low-budget, psychedelic romp through space—beginning in Iceland, post-apocalypse.

Síðasti bærinn í dalnum (“The Last Farm in the Valley,” 1950)
This one was a game-changer in the Icelandic film scene, especially with regards to film music. Jórunn Viðar’s score was the first soundtrack composed to a full-length film in Iceland. The film is based on the horrifying folk tale of a small farm harassed by a scary-ass troll before elves come to the rescue. The film’s creature effects no doubt traumatized many a young viewer when it came out in the 50s. The Icelandic Film Museum is restoring the film, and it will be screened in Harpa this December. The score was lost, until now—the original acetates will be spinning, accompanied by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.

Sóley (1982)
Sóley was the only feature film by the amazing and criminally underrated artist Róska. She was a controversial and groundbreaking figure in Iceland who forged her own anarchic path through the male-dominated art scene of the 60s. She studied art and film in bohemian Rome in the late 60s with her husband, Manrico Pavolettoni. In 1982 they collaborated on this art-house film, which is almost impossible to find today. Róska said the film was about “dream and reality meeting up and going on a journey together”. The original print of the film is sadly lost, but there are some bootlegs floating around the cloud.

Appalachian Theatre Names Charlotte Native Laura Kratt as First Executive Director

Appalachian Theatre Names Charlotte Native Laura Kratt as First Executive Director

Laura Kratt

The Appalachian Theatre of the High Country, Inc. (ATHC) announced today that arts management professional Laura Kratt of Charlotte has been hired as the organization’s first Executive Director. She will begin her tenure in this newly-created, full time position on July 16, 2018.

When introducing Kratt to the ATHC board of trustees at their meeting on June 27, chair John Cooper said, “It was truly a national search with finalists from California, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas, but we found the perfect candidate right here in North Carolina, just 100 miles away in Charlotte.” Cooper was pleased that Kratt was the unanimous choice of the search committee, a decision that met with the complete endorsement of the executive committee. “All the pieces are in place to begin the final stage of construction that will restore this jewel in the cultural crown of the High Country to its former glory.”

A native Charlottean, Kratt has over 20 years of experience managing the visual and performing arts. Prior to coming to the Appalachian Theatre, she managed National Historic Landmark theatres in New York and Georgia as well as university presenting programs at Washington University, Wingate University and the University of Cincinnati. Classically trained in piano and voice, Laura is a graduate of Wake Forest University and pursued Master’s degree studies in Arts Administration at the University of Cincinnati College – Conservatory of Music.

Most recently, Kratt served as Wingate University’s Director of Cultural Events and was responsible for the artistic and operational management of three theatres serving 90,000+ visitors annually. Prior to her tenure at Wingate, she managed the programs and preservation of two 19th century National Historic Landmark theatres – the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in New York and the State Theatre of Georgia, the Springer Opera House. At the Springer, Ms. Kratt managed the $11 million renovation and expansion of that historic theatre complex. Among her accomplishments, Kratt has served as a Peer Consultant for the League of Historic American Theatres, founding member of the Georgia League of Historic Theatres, Grant Panelist for the North Carolina Arts Council, SouthArts and the New York State Council on the Arts and board member and officer of the North Carolina Presenters Consortium.

The executive director search committee was chaired by Denise Ringler, Director of Arts Engagement and Cultural Resources at Appalachian State University, and included board and community leaders John Cooper, Jim Deal, Gail Hearn, Jane Lonon, Keith Martin, Frank Mohler, Bob Neill, and Dave Robertson.

“Laura Kratt’s wealth of experience as a seasoned arts presenter made her the unanimous choice of our committee, following a national search,” notes Ringler. “Her knowledge and skills in the areas of non-profit management, arts programming, theatre operations, events management and fundraising, combined with her interest in the preservation of historic venues, make her a tremendous asset to the Appalachian Theatre as we head toward our opening and inaugural year.”

Jane Lonon, Executive Director of Ashe County Arts Council, served on the regionally-diverse search committee. She said, “The Appalachian Theatre will be in good hands with the leadership of Laura Kratt. She brings a wealth of experience in administration, programming, and connecting with the community. I have had the privilege of working with Laura on the Executive Board of the North Carolina Presenter’s Consortium for four years, and the High Country is fortunate to have Laura join our team!”

In accepting the job offer, Kratt remarked, “It is a real pleasure to work alongside these dedicated volunteers and Trustees who have worked so diligently to reopen this historic theatre. I know we all want to make it a vital contributor to the cultural landscape and economic development of downtown Boone and the High Country.” Kratt told trustees that she was anxious to get started, and wanted local arts supporters to know that, “While the theatre doors may be closed during construction, you can rest assured we’ll be working hard getting ready to put our best foot forward for the curtain raising in the summer of 2019! Make sure you’re on our mailing/email list.”

The mission of the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country is, “to provide a quality venue for a variety of artistic genres; to contribute to the region by promoting and strengthening the area’s unique cultural identity and creative history; to enhance business in downtown Boone and the High Country; to provide a cultural hub for the area; and to find new life for a historic building while maintaining its financial sustainability and maximizing its economic impact.”

Additional information about the Appalachian Theatre and their ongoing capital campaign may be found on the theatre’s new website,



Farpoint to lead publicly funded $75M restoration of Uptown Theatre

Farpoint to lead publicly funded $75M restoration of Uptown Theatre

Farpoint to lead publicly funded $75M restoration of Uptown Theatre

The developer will join property owner Jam Productions to restore the city’s largest theater space

June 29, 2018 11:00AM

Uptown Theatre in 1928 and Uptown Theatre today (Credit: CharmaineZoe’s Marvelous Melange and Richie Diesterheft via Flickr)

UPDATE, June 29, 2:50 p.m.: Farpoint Development will spearhead a $75 million effort to restore the 93-year-old Uptown Theatre, promising to revive a 46,000-square-foot neighborhood landmark after nearly four decades of vacancy.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited the theater, 4816 North Broadway, Friday to announce a hodgepodge of public funding sources set to make up the remaining balance after Farpoint and property owner Jam Productions kick $26 million into the building.

The two-year restoration project will be financed in waves with the help of a half-dozen federal, state and local programs, including the Lawrence/Broadway tax increment financing district, which will be tapped for $13 million.

Jam Productions, a Chicago-based music promoter, bought the palatial 4,381-seat performance space in 2008. It remains the city’s largest theater, with about 400 seats more than the runner-up Auditorium Theatre in the Loop. Jam owner Jerry Mickelson vowed Friday to restore the theater’s three marquees and 17,000 light bulbs, and to boost its audience capacity to 5,800 people.

The renovation will add new elevators and concession stands, in addition to re-finishing the chipping terra cotta walls and modernizing the building’s plumbing and electrical systems.

Farpoint, led by Sterling Bay co-founder Scott Goodman, is also leading an effort to redevelop the 49-acre former site of the Michael Reese Hospital on the Near South Side.

Emanuel has spoken for years about fleshing out the entertainment district around the Lawrence CTA station in Uptown, where the Riviera Theatre and Aragon Ballroom already attract hundreds of concert-goers most weekends, and on Friday he called the restoration “the final piece that brings the entire strategy for the Uptown neighborhood to life.” An ongoing $6 million streetscape redesign also has added a pedestrian plaza in front of the Riviera, a stone’s throw from the graffiti-covered Uptown Theatre.

Two blocks south of the theater district, CRG’s 149-unit apartment joins a crop of new development sprouting around the freshly-rebuilt Wilson Red Line station.

And two blocks north, Cedar Street Real Estate has begun renovating a 300,000 square-foot office building at 5050 North Broadway, promising to eventually bring more than 700 new apartments to the northern edge of Uptown. [Chicago Tribune] — Alex Nitkin

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