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Uptown Square District Takes Big Step Towards Landmark Status

By  Josh McGhee and Ted Cox | October 6, 2016 5:28pm 

 The Green Mill is one of the most vital Uptown music venues, playing host to nightly jazz and weekend poetry slams.
The Green Mill is one of the most vital Uptown music venues, playing host to nightly jazz and weekend poetry slams.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — The Uptown Square District's landmark status was approved by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks Thursday, leaving only one more hurdle to clear before the title is official.

It faced no opposition by members of commission, who voted by voice Thursday afternoon.

“The Uptown community has some beautiful historic buildings,” said Ald. James Cappleman (46th) who supported the designation. “It’s going through a resurgence. It’s going through such a quick resurgence that’s why we felt the need to do this.”

The district includes 57 properties mainly along Lawrence Avenue and Broadway and encompassing what is commonly referred to as the Uptown Entertainment District. Forty-two of the contributing buildings were built from 1901-40. An image of the proposed map is included here.

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.

David Trayte, of the Department of Planning and Development, said the buildings displayed “excellent historical integrity."

But not all building owners believe the designation is beneficial. Anna Gallios, owner of 4520-70 N. Broadway, repeated her opposition, saying, “There really is no tax benefit to us.”

In a public hearing at City Hall last month, Gallios had asked that her building be excluded because it was rebuilt following a fire in 1995. The designation would "put a lot of limitation, financially, on the building,” she said at the time.

Chiso Whang, of 4635 N. Broadway, also opposed the district because his building is "nothing special" and "not architecturally significant.“

The designation would “impede the progress of the neighborhood as a vibrant commercial district,” he said.

But architecture aficionados and preservationists are very fond of the area.

“This is a remarkable district of buildings by a who’s who of Chicago architects,” said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago.

While many of the buildings are cited by the National Registry of Historic Places, that doesn’t prevent the “wholesale remodeling” of those buildings, said former president of the Uptown Historical Society John Holden, pointing to the “unfortunate remodeling” of the Wilton Hotel.

Lisa DiChiera, of Landmarks Illinois, also was in support, while likewise expressing support for an Uptown entertainment district to be designated.

Dijana Cuvalo, of the Department of Planning and Development, said it is reviewing permits on the Uptown Theater “to maintain the building,” mainly through masonry work and tuckpointing, but didn’t offer any other information on the long-vacant theater.

The district still must be approved by City Hall to officially receive Landmark status.

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