Farpoint to lead publicly funded $75M restoration of Uptown Theatre

The developer will join property owner Jam Productions to restore the city’s largest theater space

Uptown Theatre in 1928 and Uptown Theatre today (Credit: CharmaineZoe's Marvelous Melange and Richie Diesterheft via Flickr)
Uptown Theatre in 1928 and Uptown Theatre today (Credit: CharmaineZoe's Marvelous Melange and Richie Diesterheft via Flickr)

UPDATE, June 29, 2:50 p.m.: Farpoint Development will spearhead a $75 million effort to restore the 93-year-old Uptown Theatre, promising to revive a 46,000-square-foot neighborhood landmark after nearly four decades of vacancy.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited the theater, 4816 North Broadway, Friday to announce a hodgepodge of public funding sources set to make up the remaining balance after Farpoint and property owner Jam Productions kick $26 million into the building.

The two-year restoration project will be financed in waves with the help of a half-dozen federal, state and local programs, including the Lawrence/Broadway tax increment financing district, which will be tapped for $13 million.

Jam Productions, a Chicago-based music promoter, bought the palatial 4,381-seat performance space in 2008. It remains the city’s largest theater, with about 400 seats more than the runner-up Auditorium Theatre in the Loop. Jam owner Jerry Mickelson vowed Friday to restore the theater’s three marquees and 17,000 light bulbs, and to boost its audience capacity to 5,800 people.

The renovation will add new elevators and concession stands, in addition to re-finishing the chipping terra cotta walls and modernizing the building’s plumbing and electrical systems.

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Farpoint, led by Sterling Bay co-founder Scott Goodman, is also leading an effort to redevelop the 49-acre former site of the Michael Reese Hospital on the Near South Side.

Emanuel has spoken for years about fleshing out the entertainment district around the Lawrence CTA station in Uptown, where the Riviera Theatre and Aragon Ballroom already attract hundreds of concert-goers most weekends, and on Friday he called the restoration “the final piece that brings the entire strategy for the Uptown neighborhood to life.” An ongoing $6 million streetscape redesign also has added a pedestrian plaza in front of the Riviera, a stone’s throw from the graffiti-covered Uptown Theatre.

Two blocks south of the theater district, CRG’s 149-unit apartment joins a crop of new development sprouting around the freshly-rebuilt Wilson Red Line station.

And two blocks north, Cedar Street Real Estate has begun renovating a 300,000 square-foot office building at 5050 North Broadway, promising to eventually bring more than 700 new apartments to the northern edge of Uptown. [Chicago Tribune] — Alex Nitkin