Portage Theater’s gas service back
by BRIAN NADIG
Commercial and residential tenants in the Portage Theater building, 4042-60 N. Milwaukee Ave., have been without gas for heat and hot water since Thursday evening, Sept. 12, due to a reported $20,000 unpaid bill to Peoples Gas.
A spokeswoman for the gas company said Monday that the heat would not be turned on until the debt is paid and until the company can conduct a safety inspection of the building’s furnace, boiler and gas meter equipment. The spokeswoman said that gas for cooking was not affected because residents of the building who use a gas stove pay for that individually.
The 93-year-old building, which was designated a city landmark last spring, has 36 apartments and eight storefronts, one of which is occupied by a dentist. Last spring building owner Eddie Carranza closed the 1,300-seat theater in the building and began a search for a new operator.
A tenant said that the building’s management initially said that the gas was turned off because of a leak but later indicated that there was an unpaid gas bill. The gas company posted several stickers on the building last week warning tenants that the gas would be turned off, but some of the stickers were quickly scraped off, the tenant said.
Alderman John Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said that the alderman’s office has been referring tenants in the building to the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, a nonprofit agency which helps tenants deal with problems with landlords. Brugh said that the city ordinance requiring buildings to be heated to 68 degrees during the day and 63 degrees at night is in effect only during the winter months.
Brugh said that as of two weeks ago the city was owed $3,068 for an unpaid water bill at the building but that the water has not been turned off.
Carranza also owns the Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave., which has been closed for several months due to build code violations. According to the theater’s Web site, the next scheduled show at the Congress will be on Oct. 30, but concerts which had been set for Sept. 27 and Oct. 19 were canceled.