EDGEWATER — One of Ridge Avenue's most notable buildings may see new life as an event venue and banquet hall after languishing for more than a decade with an uncertain future.
Long-rumored to be a former movie house built by Charlie Chaplin in 1918, the two-story property at 5757 N. Ridge Ave. was built in 1922 as an elaborate auto showroom, according to the Edgewater Historical Society.
Like many other showrooms in the area during the "motor row" era, the shop closed at the onset of the Great Depression, and the 12,000-square-foot building became different iterations of car dealerships and auto body repair shops over the years.
After an unsuccessful attempt by Andersonville artist Rosario Rosi in 2007 to turn it into an art studio and work space — including a major, but unfinished, renovation — the building was bought for $1 million in 2015 by Kiki Stamelos.
Since then, Stamelos has been working to find a tenant for the property.
Now, with renewed interest in the building, Stamelos' search soon may be over.
In June, permits were issued to alter the building into a small venue and banquet hall.
Stamelos said Alexis Leverenz is behind the project. Leverenz is a business owner who runs Kitchen Chicago, a community-oriented commercial kitchen that helps startup food businesses.
"We are hoping that everybody is going to be for it, so it can be developed and [there] can be something there," Stamelos said. "We've tried. A lot of people have been interested, but the building is very unique and particular, and somebody has to have usage for the whole thing."
"It's hard to find a good person and a good usage."
At 6:30 p.m. Aug. 15, Leverenz and officials from 48th Ward Ald. Harry Osterman's office are holding a community meeting at the building to garner feedback from neighbors and discuss a potential license for the location that would allow it to host live performers and charge admission.
Leverenz could not be reached for comment.
Stamelos said she hopes to gain the neighborhood's "blessing" on the project and that the building can once again be used for community services. Leverenz "is the type of person who would do the right thing" when it comes to reviving the beleaguered building, Stamelos said.
"You want somebody in the neighborhood who will be welcome, one, and second, if they can contribute [to the community] that's even better," she said.
The interior staircase remains unfinished. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]Photos of the interior show a 6,000-square-foot upstairs room. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]The building's old facade under its new one. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]The building may become a banquet hall. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]