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Uptown Square District Granted Landmark Status By City Council

By Josh McGhee | December 14, 2016 2:15pm
 Uptown Theater is one of more than 50 buildings in the proposed landmark district.
Uptown Theater is one of more than 50 buildings in the proposed landmark district.
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DNAinfo/Juan Thompson

UPTOWN — The Uptown Square District was officially granted landmark status from City Council without debate Wednesday.

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

The effort had early support from many Uptown residents and businesses and from Ald. James Cappleman (46th), who said the area “has gone through some incredible revitalization” and is deserving of protection.

“I would hate to think that someone could demolish a building like the Riviera or the Aragon,” resident John Bankhurst said at a meeting in September.

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

Although early discussions about recognizing the neighborhood's historic significance were met with support, some business owners in the district pushed back against the landmark effort.

In a public hearing at City Hall in September, 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.

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.

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.

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.”

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