The eagle eyes of someone at Compass Rose Cultural Crossroads has come across the fact that the just-published agenda for the City of Chicago's monthly Community Development Commission meeting next Tuesday, September 26th includes an item indicating the city may be purchasing the 4,300 seat Uptown Theater, shuttered since 1981, which to date has so far resisted all efforts to save and restore it.
The agenda item reads: "Request authority to acquire the Uptown Theater, a Chicago Landmark, located at 4816 North Broadway Avenue in the Lawrence/Broadway Tax Increment
Financing Redevelopment Project Area."
A TIF (tax increment financing) district diverts all new property tax revenues in a defined geographic area into a special fund used to spur development in that area. In Chicago's Loop, $70,000,000 was kicked in from Central Loop TIF to help fund restoration of the three of Chicago's grandest movie palaces, the Chicago, Palace and Oriental, as well as for building a new home for the Goodman theater behind the preserved facades of the Harris and Selwyn Theaters. The final cost of these projects, however, was several times the TIF contribution.
The cost to restore the massive Uptown, which takes almost all of a full city block, could be $30 to $50 million and up. The building has received minimal maintenance over the past two decades and is in an advanced state of decay. The city could probably pick up the Uptown, which an official city landmark since 1991, for a million or two, simply to secure the building from further harm.