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Landmark Status For Uptown Entertainment District? Property Owners Split

By  Josh McGhee and Ted Cox | September 13, 2016 5:37am 

 The Uptown Theatre is one of several properties in the proposed Chicago Landmark District.
The Uptown Theatre is one of several properties in the proposed Chicago Landmark District.
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DNAinfo.com/Adeshina Emmanuel

CITY HALL — While the public seems to be in favor of preserving the architecture in a portion of Uptown by designating it as a Chicago Landmark District, a chunk of the property owners are against the plan.

In a public hearing at City Hall Monday, officials said only 35 owners out of 66 returned forms regarding the landmark district. While 20 of the property owners were in favor of the landmark distinction, 15 were not, said Eleanor Gorski, deputy commissioner with the Department of Planning and Development.

Anna Gallios, owner of a building at 4520-70 N. Broadway, asked that her building not be in the district because it was rebuilt after a fire in 1995.

“It does put a lot of limitation, financially, on the building,” she said.

 Architecture aficionados Jim Peters and Ward Miller talk after Monday’s hearing.
Architecture aficionados Jim Peters and Ward Miller talk after Monday’s hearing.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Gorski would not specify which businesses were in favor and which were not.

The final district boundary and description would be defined by the City Council.

But a proposed map shows the boundary would stretch north on Broadway from the McJunkin Building at 4520 N. Broadway to the U.S. Post Office at 4850 N. Broadway. It would stretch east on Lawrence Avenue from the Peoples Church of Chicago at 941 W. Lawrence Ave. to the Green Mill at 4800 N. Broadway. It will also include a small stretch of Racine Avenue stretching south of Broadway to the Wilson Avenue Theater at 1050 W. Wilson Ave.

An image of the map is included here.

While Gallios pledged not to demolish it, she asked that no restrictions be put on her building, she said.

Once a property is proposed for Chicago Landmark status and after it is designated, all building permit applications must be evaluated to determine they don't affect "significant historical and architectural features," which are defined at the beginning of the designation process. Work on those designated features must be approved by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, according to the City of Chicago.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) supports creating the landmark district, saying the area “has gone through some incredible revitalization” and is deserving of protection.

Properties in the proposed district include what is known as the Uptown Entertainment District, which made the area a destination in the early 1900s.

Essanay Studios, a motion picture studio at 1345 W. Argyle St. best known for its Charlie Chaplin comedies, helped lure development to the area. The Green Mill Gardens, of 1914, was "a popular haunt" to movie stars, said David Trayte, of the Department of Planning and Development.

While some of the buildings such as the Uptown Theatre are already on the National Register of Historic Places, the title is strictly "honorific" and did not protect the Plymouth Hotel, which was demolished in 2001, said Lisa DiChiera of Landmarks Illinois.

The district designation “will offer a new menu of economic incentive options” and would be “a sound investment," DiChiera said, adding that judging from the response on Landmarks Illinois’ Facebook page “the public is very much in favor of this.”

Local resident John Holden said he is in favor of the proposed district because it should help foster additional preservation. Local resident John Bankhurst agreed.

“I would hate to think that someone could demolish a building like the Riviera or the Aragon,” Bankhurst said.

Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, wants to push the proposal further asking for the designation to preserve the interior lobbies and other notable parts of the Riviera, Aragon and Uptown, as well as the Uptown National Bank Building and the WPA murals in the Post Office.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks will consider the plan at a meeting set for Oct. 6 at City Hall, Commissioner Carmen Rossi said.

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