Editorial: Good news for preserving St. Petersburg’s State Theatre

Editorial: Good news for preserving St. Petersburg’s State Theatre

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The sale of St. Petersburg’s State Theatre saves a historic landmark in the middle of a rapidly changing downtown. Even better, the new owner plans renovations and improvements that will bring the building up to code and continue its existence as a thriving venue for concerts and other events.

The building dates to 1924, when it was constructed to house the Alexander National Bank. It was converted to a movie house in 1950 that operated for three decades. Its most recent incarnation has been as a beloved concert venue, holding intimate crowds of several hundred who would wrap around the building waiting to get inside. But the building’s age and condition had become a liability. Last year, the fire marshal cut its capacity to under 400 because of violations and safety issues, imperiling the venue’s ability to book shows.

Then came the welcome news this week that a trust purchased the theater for $2.1 million. St. Petersburg real estate broker Kevin Chadwick, who runs the trust and owns an office building and parking lot on the same block, told the Tampa Bay Times he has extensive renovations in mind to “restore it back to a true historic landmark.” He envisions more live music concerts but also private events and perhaps even movie screenings.

Efforts to preserve historic buildings don’t always pan out because of cost and other complications. Fortunately in this case it did, and it’s great to imagine the next chapter of the State Theatre, a one-of-a-kind downtown treasure.

http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/Editorial-Good-news-for-preserving-St-Petersburg-s-State-Theatre_169594867

Emanuel unveils $75M plan to restore historic Uptown Theater – Chicago Sun-Times

Nearly three years ago, Ald. James Cappleman (46th) approached Mayor Rahm Emanuel with a warning about Chicago’s storied but decaying Uptown Theater with the potential to, as Cappleman put it, “destroy my political career.”

A $125 million plan to use Emanuel’s slow-starting Infrastructure Trust as a vehicle to restore the Uptown after owner Jerry Mickelson gave up ownership had fallen through when Gov. Bruce Rauner nixed a $10 million state grant and Emanuel pulled the plug on the Trust deal.

“I went back to the mayor…and said, `You’re now approaching a time where it will be too little, too late. Someone will have to make a decision to demolish it..I know it will destroy my political career. But it would be a white elephant. It wouldn’t be fair to the community. And I would be willing to make that awful choice,” Cappleman recalled.

“But before that happened, I was gonna fight like hell to restore this theater.”

On Friday, Cappleman’s “fight-like-hell” crusade had a happy ending.

Emanuel joined Jam Productions and Farpoint Development to announce a scaled-down, $75 million plan to restore the Uptown and fulfill the mayor’s 2011 promise to create an Uptown Music District that includes the Uptown theater at 4816 N. Broadway, the Aragon Ballroom, the Riviera Theater, the Green Mill jazz lounge and the Uptown Underground cabaret.

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The marquee at the Uptown Theatre in Chicago. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

” data-medium-file=”https://suntimesmedia.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/uptown-063018-1_77198280-e1542059332126.jpg?w=400″ data-large-file=”https://suntimesmedia.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/uptown-063018-1_77198280-e1542059332126.jpg?w=903″ class=”size-medium wp-image-1198574 lazyload” data-src=”https://suntimesmedia.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/uptown-063018-1_77198280-e1530306001657.jpg?w=400&h=300″ alt=”The marquee at the Uptown Theater in Chicago.” width=”400″ height=”300″><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-1198574" data-attachment-id="1198574" data-permalink="https://chicago.suntimes.com/business/emanuel-unveils-75m-plan-to-restore-historic-uptown-theater/the-marquee-at-the-uptown-theatre-in-chicago-colin-boyle-sun-times/" data-orig-file="https://suntimesmedia.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/uptown-063018-1_77198280-e1542059332126.jpg" data-orig-size="903,677" data-comments-opened="0" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"4.5","credit":"","camera":"NIKON D750","caption":"The marquee at the Uptown Theatre in Chicago. | Colin Boyle\/Sun-Times","created_timestamp":"1530277326","copyright":"","focal_length":"20","iso":"500","shutter_speed":"0.000625","title":"The marquee at the Uptown Theatre in Chicago. | Colin Boyle\/Sun-Times","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="The marquee at the Uptown Theatre in Chicago. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times" data-image-description="

The marquee at the Uptown Theatre in Chicago. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

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The marquee at the Uptown Theater in Chicago. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

The long-awaited agreement will be made possible with $30 million in “equity and conventional financing” and a massive infusion of government money that far exceeds the taxpayer help that would have been required if only the Infrastructure Trust had succeeded in saving the 93-year-old Uptown.

That jigsaw puzzle of funding includes $13 million from the surrounding tax-incrementing-financing (TIF) district; $3 million in “Adopt-a-Landmark” funds; $14 million from the state’s “property assessed Clean Energy Act; $8.7 million in federal tax credits and $10 million from the Build Illinois bond fund.

Chicago taxpayers will also contribute $6 million to improve the streetscape that will define the Uptown Theater District.

Streetscape improvements along portions of Broadway, Lawrence, Wilson and Argyle will include a new pedestrian plaza, a sculpture and a public stage in the 4700 block of North Racine.

“This has been empty for three decades. If it was easy, it would have been done a long time ago,” Emanuel told the Sun-Times.

Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman added, “You look at it as a jigsaw puzzle. I would say that it’s basically having many parties come to the table to share the risk that this project represents in a way that minimizes the possibilities of it failing.”

Cappleman noted that across the country, theater restoration has been done almost exclusively with public money.

“It’s very difficult now to do it with all private money. It can’t be done,” he said.

Friday was a day for Emanuel, Cappleman and Mickelson to celebrate, not to dwell on the earlier stumble.

They were just thrilled that the massive crown jewel of a theater — that has stood stubbornly vacant and decaying since the J. Geils Band left the stage on Dec. 19, 1981 — would be restored to its former glory and come alive again.

“From `75 to `81, we put on some of the biggest names in rock’n’roll: Bruce Springsteen, Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, Rod Stewart, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Billy Joel . . . Everybody played it,” Mickelson said.

“The same type of acts are gonna come back and play it again. Except they’ll be today’s superstars.”

Emanuel first mentioned the idea of an Uptown Music District shortly before taking office.

“I had gone to see Adele at the Riviera. And I said, `We need an entertainment music district. It will be a shot in the arm in a way that the Old Town School of Folk Music was for the Lincoln Square community,’” the mayor recalled Friday.

“It’s taken us a little longer than I wanted. But here we are.”

Now, Emanuel can only hope that the complex deal he has cobbled together holds long enough to restore a building that was the world’s largest theater when it opened in 1925 and that Mickelson can keep it busy enough to make it viable.

“Jerry said he’s already got an artist calling who wants to book the next five New Year’s Eves” at the Uptown, the mayor said.

“Artists are always — I know this from my brother [Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel]. I know this from Jerry — looking for new venues, new settings where they can do something different. That’s also true for the music-loving audience…I have all the confidence. We have opened up multiple new venues and all of `em are doing well.”

https://chicago.suntimes.com/business/emanuel-unveils-75m-plan-to-restore-historic-uptown-theater/

Uptown Theatre will be restored: $75 million plan unveiled for grand palace on North Side – Chicago Tribune

After 35 years of stuttering starts, empty promises, a court-ordered sale and oft-reckless neglect, the 4,381-seat, 46,000-square-foot Uptown Theatre — once the gilded crown jewel of the Balaban & Katz theater chain, and among the most opulent and gorgeous movie palaces ever built in America — is finally to be restored to its 1925 glory.

In other words, what long has seemed impossible to dogged, devoted preservationists, nostalgists and the tireless volunteer group known as the Friends of the Uptown is finally happening on Chicago’s North Side. And an eye-popping $75 million has been pieced together and set aside for the restoration of a dangerously decayed and decrepit theater that was boarded up after a J. Geils Band concert on Dec. 19, 1981, leaving aging Chicagoans only with their memories of once seeing Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, Prince or the Grateful Dead inside its historic bones.

This is not just another plan for the 4816 N. Broadway flagship of the Uptown neighborhood, insists Mayor Rahm Emanuel. This time it’s for real. Assuming the plan passes the City Council and other regulatory hurdles, the restoration and redevelopment project is slated to begin this fall. Within two years, the boards should be off the windows, the venue open for business and a curious public careening once again down the grand lobby staircase.

“This is the fulfillment of a promise,” said Emanuel in an interview Thursday. “When I was still mayor-elect, I talked about creating an entertainment district in Uptown. Our investments in culture are one of our best drivers of economic growth and job creation in our neighborhoods.”

The new Uptown will be a joint and equal venture between the Chicago-based promoter Jam Productions (which gained ownership of the landmarked Uptown for $3.2 million in 2008) and Farpoint Development. A new partnership entity will be formed.

Relatively new to the Uptown party, Farpoint Development is led by Scott Goodman, who co-founded Sterling Bay and helped build that firm into one of Chicago’s biggest and best-known commercial real estate developers, with projects including McDonald’s headquarters’ move to the former site of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios and Google’s Midwest headquarters in a former cold-storage warehouse. Goodman and three other longtime Sterling Bay executives left the company in 2016 to start Farpoint.

“The Uptown is an amazing asset in an amazing neighborhood,” Goodman said. “This was the rare opportunity to do something really cool.”

Goodman said the architect for the project has yet to be selected.

Jam’s specialty is concert promotion, but the plan is for the Uptown to feature a variety of live events.

“Concerts. Comedy. Dance. Special events. A whole multitude of things,” said Arny Granat, the co-founder and co-owner, with Jerry Mickelson, of Jam Productions. “This is a game changer for the city. It’s not just about concerts, it’s about the economic development that now will occur in the Uptown neighborhood”

Granat also said that, for some events, main-floor seats will be removed, allowing for an audience capacity as high as 5,800. Even with all-seated events, the Uptown’s size eclipses all other theaters in the city, including the 3,901-seat Auditorium Theatre and the 3,600-seat Chicago Theatre, both of which are about to experience some formidable new competition.

From uptown.

The mayor’s office said the piecemeal financing for the Uptown Theatre comes from an array of public and private sources: $14 million in financing through the State of Illinois’ Property Assessed Clean Energy Act; $13 million in tax-increment financing; $10 million in Build Illinois bond funding; $8.7 million in federal tax credits; and $3.7 million in the City of Chicago’s Adopt-a-Landmark funds. Jam and Farpoint are kicking in the remaining $26 million in a yet-to-be-determined mix of debt and equity. The restoration scheme also includes $6 million in streetscape improvements to portions of North Broadway, and Lawrence and Wilson avenues and Argyle Street, including a new pedestrian plaza and public stage, located just south of Lawrence and Broadway.

The byzantine road to restoration — and the campaigns to avoid the wrecking ball — have been as melodramatic as one of the movies the Uptown showcased in the 1920s.

Back in 2002, politicians and arts supporters, including Ivar Albert Goodman, held a news conference announcing an impending restoration. But the nonprofit group calling itself the Uptown Theatre and Center for the Arts did not have the money to acquire the building. And Goodman’s $1 million donation quickly was spent with nothing concrete to show. In a civil complaint, the Illinois attorney general’s office alleged the money had been spent on purchases at luxury hotels, restaurants and clothing stores.

“This theater,” said then-Ald. Mary Ann Smith, 48th, to the Tribune, “tends to attract people with stars in their eyes.”

Indeed it did. All kinds of people with all kinds of fantasies.

But as early as 2000, a report by the Urban Land Institute of Washington, D.C., had laid out the essential, irrefutable argument for the Uptown: “Future generations will not forgive those who do not attend to this obligation.”

For Chicago politicians, the Uptown has been a major quandary for decades. Restoration was jaw-droppingly expensive and thus beyond the reach of most private owners, especially since success in the highly competitive entertainment business was far from assured. But what mayor or alderman would want to be associated for life with the demolition of such a treasured and unique beauty?

Designed by the famed team of C.W. and Geo. L. Rapp (known as Rapp and Rapp) and touted on opening as containing “an acre of seats in a magic city” behind its Spanish Baroque facade, the huge six-story lobbies and extra-wide staircases of the Uptown could get 4,300 people out the doors, and another 4,300 inside, all within 16 minutes. In its first five years of operation in the 1920s, more than 20 million Chicagoans went through its portals into a fantastical world apart, one that Rapp and Rapp had wanted to resemble such creations as the Palace of Versailles.

There were floating “clouds,” tiny twinkling lights in the ceiling and even a perfuming system under the seats.

It was a far cry from Al Capone’s Chicago.

Had the Uptown Theatre been in the Loop, it likely would have been restored long ago, alongside the busy, historic theaters now owned or operated by Broadway in Chicago and Madison Square Garden Entertainment. But the Uptown’s massive size — too big for many concerts and most Broadway musicals — and its location in a neighborhood with significant economic challenges presented the dilemma of how to attract suburban and tourist audiences to an address that’s about 8 miles from the corner of State and Madison streets. Especially given the relative lack of parking and the large number of competing venues in the city.

By 2002, the alarmed Friends of the Uptown group was calling reporters with stories of falling plaster and pooling rainwater. Some in the group suspected that the endangered theater was being intentionally allowed to rot and soon would be condemned for good (or, their minds, bad). Others were pushing for the city to acquire the building through eminent domain. By the summer of 2008, there had been a court-ordered foreclosure sale and competing bids, leading to Jam Productions taking control of the building through a spinoff company, UTA II, controlled by Mickelson and Granat.

Jam’s winning bid was widely seen at the time as a defensive move to counter the incursions into the city by such rivals as Live Nation and MSG Entertainment. But taking control and reopening were two very different things. The Uptown could not just be reopened to the public: At the time, Jam argued that no restoration would be possible without public money, which was not then forthcoming. And thus, although Jam invested in and stabilized the Uptown, and averted the building’s worst problems, the theater remained on the endangered lists.

A few reporters, documentarians and artists found their way inside. In Chicago’s 2012 Cultural Plan, the Uptown Theatre got a hopeful mention. And in 2017, a music video was made by Regina Spektor inside the ghostly but atmospheric building, revealing to a new, younger generation what was hidden behind the barriers to entry.

But those who have fought for — and reported on — the theater have grown old while the Uptown has languished, its keepers fearing every severe storm.

So what changed? The construction boom in the city has certainly been a factor, as has the revival of urban entertainment venues and the urban economic momentum in general, often coming at the expense of the suburbs.

Farpoint is among the developers looking to capitalize on the nationwide urbanization trend. Its largest initiative is the proposed redevelopment of the 49-acre former Michael Reese Hospital site and other land south of McCormick Place into residential and commercial buildings. The project, called the Burnham Lakefront, was one of five Chicago sites that Amazon visited in March as the e-commerce giant scouted sites for its planned second headquarters.

This isn’t Farpoint’s first foray into cultural development: Goodman recently was involved with an unsuccessful attempt to build a new home for the Northlight Theatre in downtown Evanston. But that was potential new construction with vociferous local opposition. The Uptown is a fulfillment of a neighborhood’s dream.

“This is not unlike asking kids if they want another Christmas, or Chicagoans if they want another World Championship,” said Andy Pierce, the co-founder of the Friends of the Uptown, an organization with a 20-year history of campaigns and agitation, and now with results to show. “You just don’t meet anyone who doesn’t want the Uptown saved.”

Tribune reporter Ryan Ori contributed to this story.

Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.

[email protected]

From 2017: Joffrey ballerina dances at Uptown Theatre in Regina Spektor’s new music video »

From 2017: As Wrigleyville booms, Uptown’s district is left in the dust »

From 2015: A tale of two Uptowns »

Read more of Chris Jones’ columns on the Theater Loop »

http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/theater/ct-ent-uptown-rehab-0629-story.html

Uptown Theatre Restoration | Farpoint Development – The Real Deal

Uptown Theatre Restoration | Farpoint Development – The Real Deal

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

https://therealdeal.com/chicago/2018/06/29/farpoint-to-lead-publicly-funded-75m-restoration-of-uptown-theatre/

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.” 

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https://herald-review.com/news/local/last-picture-show-struggles-continue-more-than-a-year-after/article_2b7b84ec-0e07-5b99-bc86-03eec6b56ac8.html

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