A Petition to Save the Historic Uptown Theatre


Save the Uptown Theatre!

To:  All Parties Who Have a Voice in the Fate of the Uptown Theatre

The Grande Lobby of the Uptown Theatre from the series 'Uptown Theatre, Downtown Girl'

The Grande Lobby of the Uptown Theatre from the series Uptown Theatre, Downtown Girl. Photo courtesy of Stephanie McNiel and 606 magazine.

The Save the Historic Uptown Theatre in Chicago petition is intended to increase awareness about the renovation and reuse potential of an important historic landmark and to document the public support that exists for its use as an entertainment venue. Compass Rose Cultural Crossroads, the sponsor of this petition, is not seeking monetary donations for the restoration of the theatre and is not associated with any groups or organizations that claim to raise money for a reuse project. The Uptown Theatre is privately owned and there is not an opportunity to make donations at this time. We encourage anyone who is interested in the preservation of the Uptown Theatre to sign the petition and to write a letter of support to the theatre's owners and to local government officials.

  • Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago
  • Alderman Mary Ann Smith, 48th Ward, Chicago
  • Alderman Helen Shiller, 46th Ward, Chicago
  • Mayor's Chief of Staff Sheila O'Grady, Chicago
  • Commissioner Denise M. Casalino, Chicago Department of Planning and Development
  • Commissioner Stan Kaderbek, Chicago Department of Buildings
  • Commissioner Lois Weisberg, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs
  • Director Dorothy Coyle, Chicago Office of Tourism
  • Executive Director Jim Law, Mayor's Office of Special Events, Chicago
  • Governor Rod R. Blagojevich
  • State Representative Larry McKeon
  • Mr. Hill Hammock, Chair, Chicago Historical Society
  • Mr. David Mosena, Chairman, Chicago Landmarks Commission
  • Mr. David Bahlman, President, Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois
  • Mr. Maynard Crossland, Director, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
  • Mr. John M. Fowler, Executive Director, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
  • Ms. Cynthia Field, Director, Office of Architectural History and Historic Preservation, Smithsonian Institution
  • Ms. Bonnie Burnham, President, World Monuments Fund
  • Lunn Partners, LLC
  • Uptown Chicago Commission
  • Uptown Chamber of Commerce
  • Uptown Historical Society
  • Uptown Community Development Corp.
  • Chicago Architecture Foundation

We the undersigned wish to make known our concerns for the future of the historic Uptown Theatre at 4816 N. Broadway in Chicago. We believe that:

The Uptown Theatre is a unique architectural, historic, and cinematic treasure that is worthy of preservation as an entertainment venue. Nationwide, few so-called Movie Palaces or historic theatres of the Uptown’s scale and grandeur have survived in their entirety. Most have been either demolished or completely gutted in short-sighted commercial ventures, often converting them to condos or shopping malls and leaving only the facades. The Uptown Theatre is considered one of the last, best theatres not yet renovated, and therefore offers a rare opportunity for a complete restoration project. It has already been declared a historic landmark–both inside and out–and is included on several city, state, and national historic buildings lists. Along with the Aragon Ballroom, the Riviera Theatre, the world-famous Green Mill Jazz Club, and the many elaborate terra-cotta buildings that line Lawrence and Broadway Avenues, the Uptown Theatre forms the core of a recognized “historic district” and for that reason alone must be restored.

Detail of a decorative column in the Grande Lobby from the series 'Uptown Theatre, Downtown Girl'

Detail of a decorative column in the Grande Lobby from the series Uptown Theatre, Downtown Girl. Photo courtesy of Stephanie McNiel and 606 magazine.

The restoration of the Uptown Theatre is in fact the key to the revitalization of the entire Uptown neighborhood, one of the most culturally vibrant areas in Chicago. Uptown is favored by its enviable location near Lake Michigan; its diverse residents; its proximity to the well-established neighborhoods of Andersonville, Edgewater, and Wrigleyville; its excellent public transportation; and its abundance of attractive housing to make it the next region of Chicago to experience regrowth and development. The time is right and the interest exists within the community to restore the Uptown Theatre. Resurrecting Uptown as an entertainment district will attract money and tourism to the north side of Chicago.

Although the Uptown Theatre has remained closed for many years, studies indicate that it is structurally sound and a good candidate for restoration. An Urban Land Institute study, sponsored and funded by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development to help develop a vision for the market potential and planning/design of the Uptown Entertainment District, supports this conclusion. The ULI report states that the Uptown Theatre is “the crown jewel of the Uptown District and one of the most outstanding theatres in the United States” and that it “must be restored.” We hope to inspire civic leaders, urban planners, and other interested parties in selecting a reuse project that will restore and preserve, at a bare minimum, the façade, the main lobby, and the grand auditorium. With only minor modification it can be reopened as an entertainment venue, cultural center, and reception/convention hall of which the City of Chicago can be proud. The restored theatre probably will be required to accommodate more uses than intended for by the original theatre, but this can be done sensitively and with respect to the original design.

The City of Chicago and the State of Illinois must take proactive roles in the restoration of the Uptown Theatre. As part of a TIF (tax incremented finance) district a portion of the necessary funds to begin such a project could be made available. At a minimum, funds should be granted for the stabilization of the building and to provide for minimal repairs to prevent further deterioration of the theatre. Time is of the essence. A building can be mothballed for future restoration but nothing lasts forever.

Because the Uptown Theatre is a national treasure, the public deserves to have a voice in the fate of this theatre. We ask that the public be kept informed of any plans in the works and be allowed to voice our opinion on such plans. To date, area residents and nationwide supporters of the theatre rely on speculation and rumor for updates. We hope that communication can be improved. We ask that any planning meetings be made open to the public, and that regular public meetings for the restoration of the theatre be initiated immediately.

Restoring the Uptown Theatre will help preserve the community’s appearance and character and maintain its unique identity and personality. It will provide our children, our children’s children, and all generations to come a glimpse of the stunning architecture of our forefathers and mothers. We thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

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