PORTAGE PARK — The Portage Theater has been sold to a real estate investment firm, officials said late Wednesday night.
Along with the the former movie palace in the heart of the Six Corners Shopping District, owner Eddie Carranza sold the 34 apartments and eight storefronts in the theater's ornate building for $2.5 million on March 18 to BCL Multi Family LLC, which is part of the Northbrook-based private equity firm Barnett Capital Ltd., records show.
Charlie Burns will continue to operate the theater at 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave. under a lease agreement with the theater's new owner, said Justin Weber, the broker handling the sale.
“You have no idea how hard it is to turn these buildings around," Carranza said via text message Wednesday night. "We work hard and invest a lot to turn these theaters around.”
Heather Cherone talks about the many changes going on in Portage Park.
Two major developments are planned near the Portage Theater, which supporters say have the potential to reverse more than two decades of stagnation in the area once known as the city's premiere shopping destination outside the Loop.
Ald. John Arena (45th) welcomes the theater's new owners, said Owen Brugh, the alderman's chief of staff, noting that Arena had long been critical of Carranza's ownership of the Portage Theater.
"We are optimistic that the new owners will be good stewards of the Portage Theater, which is critical to the continued revitalization of Six Corners," Brugh said.
Weber and Jordan Gottlieb with Essex Realty Group declined to comment on whether the sale of the Portage Theater, storefronts and apartments was related to Carranza's ownership of the Patio Theater, which he bought last fall for $2.5 million.
Last September, Carranza bought the Plum Tree National Golf Course in Woodstock, about 70 miles from Chicago. The 268-acre property had been listed for sale at $1.5 million.
Carranza owned the Portage Theater for nearly four tumultuous years.
For much of that time, Carranza was at odds with Arena, who has made it his priority to restore Six Corners to a measure of its former glory, when it drew shoppers from all over the city and suburbs.
Carranza threatened to evict the the theater's longtime operators, who helped restore the theater after it had been shuttered for years, angering Arena and many longtime residents of Six Corners. Eventually, he bought them out, and took over operations at the theater.
Carranza repeatedly promised he would restore the nearly century-old theater to a measure of its former grandeur. No plans ever materialized.
The conflict between Arena and Carranza reached a fever pitch in spring 2013 when Carranza moved to operate the theater himself.
Shortly afterward, city officials revoked Carranza's license to serve alcohol at the Congress Theater after city officials determined the theater "created a nuisance" in Logan Square because of five separate illegal incidents involving drugs from September 2011 to April 2012.
Several weeks later, city officials closed the Congress because of building violations.
Carranza closed the Portage Theater in May 2013 after Arena said he would not allow Carranza to take over the liquor and public place of amusement licenses at the Six Corners theater because of Carranza's pockmarked track record at the Congress.
Because Carranza lost his liquor license at the Congress, city ordinance prohibited him from serving alcohol at another venue, requiring him to lease the theater.
The Portage Theater reopened in June 2014 under Burns' management — and with a liquor license — over the strenuous objections of Arena.
While the theater operated smoothly for the most part after it reopened, a man was shot after a dance party in June, and Arena said the theater was a "recipe for disaster" after a dangerously overcrowded hip-hop show in November.
That same month, tenants of the theater building's apartments represented by the Metropolitan Tenants Organization took Carranza to court, accusing him of forcing them to live in substandard apartments with no heat and water because he was more than $100,000 behind on payments to utilities.
There have been only two events at the Patio since January.
Earlier this month, Burns and his team asked city officials to allow them to serve alcohol at the Patio, a move Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) initially said he would block.
But Sposato agreed to host a community meeting set for 6 p.m. Tuesday to allow Burns to detail his plans for the theater before he made a final decision on whether he would support the application for a liquor license.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: