WICKER PARK — A banquet hall and upscale Polish restaurant that closed abruptly 15 years ago continues to bring surprises to its new owners, who plan to transform the upper levels of the property into loft-style office space.
Though the distinctive Palm Terrace banquets sign was removed months ago, the gold-and-white metal siding that covered the second- and third-floor facade of the building at 1250 N. Milwaukee Ave. was pried off over the weekend to reveal dirty terra cotta and 12 boarded-up windows.
"Why would someone cover something like this up?" Moy Arroyo, a spokesman for the building's owner, Tony Kim, said Sunday.
Arroyo is the manager of Stash, an athletic shoe store that opened in March and now occupies the first floor of the three-story building.
Arroyo said Stash will be closed temporarily "so customers and pedestrians can be safe" as work on the facade continues.
Arroyo said both he and Kim were shocked to discover windows as well as ornate finishes, which include terra cotta columns and intricate detailing.
The exterior wasn't the only surprise: during an eight-month interior renovation, Arroyo and Kim found untouched relics of the past, such as a piano, shiny wallpaper, green velvet booths and a mirrored bar from the 1980s.
According to Arroyo, the windows in Mareva's Restaurant, which occupied the second and third floors above the banquet hall, had been covered by drywall, so they were unaware that they existed.
"For me, light is very important. It makes you feel alive," Arroyo said.
Speculating about the lack of windows, Arroyo said, "At that time maybe they wanted a lot of privacy for private parties? I don't know."
Arroyo said that Kim, who bought the bank-owned building last spring, plans to clean up and restore the exterior and install new windows.
Once renovated, Arroyo said the second and third floors will be converted to loft-style offices and available for rent as "affordable office space."
Arroyo said he does not know yet how many offices will be created out of the existing space or what the rents will be, but he hopes the space will be ready for occupancy by late fall.
The city's Department of Housing and Economic Development on Monday said the building at 1250 N. Milwaukee Ave, is made of terra cotta and was designed by Huehl, Schmid and Holmes in 1914 for Edward Alberti.
While the street level contained a retail store or stores, the second floor was for billiards, and the third floor for bowling before serving as a banquet hall in later years.
In 1912 Huehl and Schmid designed the Medinah Temple, a designated Chicago landmark.