Portage Theater gets approved for landmark status

by Brian Nadig

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks unanimously approved landmark status for the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., at its March 7 meeting, while the Chicago Plan Commission recently approved a mixed-use complex at 8601-23 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.

The commission gave preliminary approval to designating the 93-year-old theater a city landmark last year, and in its final recommendations it will specify several features of the building be preserved. The features designated for preservation include the inner and outer lobbies, the auditorium and the marquee, according to Alderman John Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh.

The landmark status will prevent the auditorium from being subdivided into smaller theaters, but it will not prohibit the removal of the existing seats, which are not original. Seats can be removed without a building permit, Brugh said.

Brugh said that there are no known plans to remove the seats, but some community groups expressed concern last year when Eddie Carranza, the new owner of the theater, said that he would look into installing portable seats which could be removed for some events. Carranza also owns the Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave., where large sections of seating have been removed to create a nightclub atmosphere. The commission’s recommendation will include that a marquee on the building be maintained but not necessarily the current one, which is not original, Burgh said.

Along the walls of the lobby are areas that were designed for hanging movie posters. The commission has been informed of plans to remove one of the wall posters on each side of the lobby to allow the installation of doorways to adjacent storefronts, Brugh said.

Carranza has informed the commission that he supports the landmark designation, Brugh said. Carranza, who owns several properties in the Six Corners shopping district, is facing the revocation of his liquor license for the Congress Theater following reports of a melee after a concert and instances in which security at the Congress confiscated drugs from concert-goers and then allegedly tried selling the drugs.

Carrnaza had been hoping to purchase the licenses of the theater’s existing management team but Arena has expressed concern about transferring the Portage’s liquor license to Carranza. Carranza is seeking to find a new management team for the Portage which would taker over the existing licenses, pending city approval.

Arena sought landmark designation for the Portage Theater after the Chicago Tabernacle Church, 4201 N. Troy St., announced last year that it planned to move into the theater. The church, which backed out of its deal to buy the Portage, is selling its property on Troy and is reportedly looking for a site to build a new church.

The church had plans to install walls in the theater, Brugh said. The landmarks commission will hold its meeting at 12:45 p.m. Thursday in Room 201-A at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St The plan commission at its Feb. 21 meeting approved an amendment to a planned development that allows construction of 394 apartments and 9,000 square feet of retail space as part of a seven-story complex, with 327 parking spaces, at the southeast corner of Bryn Mawr and Delphia avenues. Half of the site’s 12 one-story office buildings would remain under the proposal. Also at the plan commission’s meeting, a hearing on a proposal to add a 7,700-square-foot restaurant to the site of an existing shopping center at 3443-3535 W. Addison St. was deferred.

In other zoning news, the City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards approved rezoning the site of the Chicago Food Corporation, 5810-30 N. Pulaski Road, from a planned development ordinance to an M2-1 Light Industry District at its Feb. 26 meeting.

Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) filed the ordinance to accommodate the possible sale of the property, which is in the Peterson Pulaski Industrial Corridor, Laurino spokesman Manuel Galvan said. The planned development includes a portion the adjacent Beth-El/Ridgelawn Cemetery, 5736 N. Pulaski Road, but the zoning change would eliminate the development ordinance without affecting the existing uses of the site.

The committee also deferred action, at the request of Alderman Rey Colon (35th), on a proposal to rezone the site of a vacant one-story commercial structure at 3637-41 W. Montrose Ave. to allow the construction of three residential buildings with 15 units and 15 parking spaces. At its Feb. 15 meeting the Zoning Board of Appeals approved special uses allowing a massage parlor to open at 6052 W. Irving Park Road and a beauty salon and massage parlor to open at 7704 W. Belmont Ave. The board also approved variations to allowing construction of a rear one-story addition to a home at 6000 W. Sherwin Ave.

On the agenda for the board’s March 15 meeting are a request for a special use to expand a tavern at 4774-76 N. Milwaukee Ave. and an appeal of the zoning administrator’s decision denying yard variations that would allow construction of a second-story addition and a rear open deck at a home at 5530 W. Pensacola Ave. The combined side yards would be 4.92 feet instead of the required 9 feet.

Both items will be on the 2 p.m. session of the board’s meeting in the Council Chamber at City Hall.


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