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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Congress Theater Developer Wants To Build Huge Residential Tower Next Door

Michael Moyer, who's renovating the notoriously run-down concert venue, aims to build the 121-foot tower just north of the Congress.

The building will offer about 100 units, and at least 30 percent of them will be affordable housing units.
Paul Biasco / GGNA
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LOGAN SQUARE — When the long-vacant Congress Theater comes to life again, a new residential tower could be alongside it. 

Michael Moyer, the developer who’s renovating the notoriously run-down concert venue at 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave., aims to build the 121-foot tower just north of the Congress on the vacant lot at Rockwell Street, according to documents provided to the Greater Goethe Neighborhood Association. The proposed project has yet to be considered by the neighborhood or City Council.

The tower would only be about 25 feet shorter than the smaller of the “twin towers,” the largest development in the neighborhood.

Credit: GGNA
The building will offer about 100 units, and at least 30 percent of them will be affordable housing units.

The tower will include 117 units, according to Ald. Joe Moreno’s 1st Ward office. 

In June, the city’s Department of Planning and Development said at least 30 percent of the tower would be set aside as affordable housing units under the city’s affordable requirements ordinance Milwaukee Avenue pilot program.

Attempts to reach Moyer and zoning attorney Rolando Acosta for updated numbers were unsuccessful Wednesday morning.

In order to secure the zoning change he needs to build the tower, Moyer must win the approval of Moreno (1st), the Greater Goethe Neighborhood Association and surrounding neighbors.

Moyer is slated to pitch the neighborhood group at its planning and zoning committee meeting on Sept. 10.

After that, the developer will meet with the larger community at Moreno’s office. A date for the community meeting, which is open to the public, has yet to be determined, according to Jose Espejo, chairman of the Greater Goethe Neighborhood Association.

Raymond Valadez, Moreno’s chief of staff, said the alderman has not yet taken a position on the project. 

“He will wait to receive community input first through the community group, the Greater Goethe Neighbor Association, and then at a community meeting, whenever it is scheduled by the group,” Valadez said. 

Moyer’s $69 million renovation project has been quietly underway for more than a year now.

The project calls for a total overhaul of the landmark theater at 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave., and the construction of a 30-room hotel, 14 affordable apartments and 16,000 square feet of retail space in the surrounding 160,000-square-foot theater building.

In June, the city’s Community Development Commission unanimously approved allocating $9.7 million in tax-increment financing (TIF) funds toward the project.

Of that amount, $800,000 is earmarked for the residential tower.

The Congress — and the vacant lot — sit in the Fullerton Milwaukee TIF District. Such districts capture all growth in the property tax base in a designated area for a set period of time, usually 20 years or more, and divert it into a special fund for projects designed to spur redevelopment and eradicate blight.

Credit: GGNA
A diagram shows the height difference between the tower (north building) and other developments along Milwaukee Avenue.

Built in 1926 as an ornate movie palace, the Congress Theater hosted musical acts like Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s an architectural gem and last year it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

But in the years leading up to its closure in 2013, the Congress was dubbed everything from derelict to dangerous. The theater was slapped with a string of code violations and threatened with foreclosure after former owner Eddie Carranza defaulted on his loans.

The Congress also made headlines for crimes that occurred in and around the theater during shows, including the rape of a 14-year-old suburban girl in 2013. As a result, the theater’s music genre of choice, electronic dance music, or EDM, was banned for all current and future owners.

In 2015, Moyer bought the Congress for $16 million. The developer is known for restoring the Cadillac Palace Theatre Downtown.

Credit: GGNA
A rendering of the 121-foot tower next to the Congress.

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