CITY HALL — The Landmarks Commission approved a renovation project for the Gold Coast's Village Theatre Thursday that would preserve the building's distinctive facade but gut the auditorium within.
Dijana Cuvalo, of the city's Zoning Department, said the project was "anticipated" when the theater was granted landmark status in 2009, and that the actual theater was considered "not significant."
Bernard Citron, an attorney for the building's owner, said they had tried for "years and years" to market the theater, located at 1546 N. Clark St., but all that resulted was "additional deterioration."
The facade will be incorporated into two stories of retail space extending around the corner at Clark and North Avenue, with a residential building on top, set back 50 feet from the old theater front but fully extended along North. The theater marquee will also be removed, but the distinctive brick and terra cotta front of the building will be preserved.
"This is the heart of the Gold Coast, and I think this would be a great loss for the city," argued Ward Miller, president of Preservation Chicago. "It is one of the oldest theaters that still stands" in Chicago, he added, built in 1916, and he called neighborhood movie houses "a rare commodity."
"It's unfortunate that the auditorium wasn't part of the original [landmark] designation," Miller added, calling for additional "discussions" to perhaps retain the interior as a theater.
Commissioner Mary Ann Smith, former alderman of the 48th Ward, cast the only vote against the project, which passed 4-1. "If they're gonna do a high-rise, just do a high-rise," she said after the meeting.
According to Cuvalo, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) did not take a position on the project.
Miller recently argued for McCormick Place to be converted into the proposed Lucas Cultural Arts Museum.
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