LOGAN SQUARE — For the better part of 2018, the long brick building on Armitage Avenue across from Rico Fresh Market underwent a secret facelift of sorts.
Up until recently, the building at 3545-59 W. Armitage Ave. was completely obscured by a wooden facade as crews did renovation work, sparking intrigue from neighbors.
A couple of weeks ago, though, the development team finally removed the facade, revealing a renovated exterior — modern brick with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Turns out, property owner George Giannoulias of United Investors, Inc. is looking to bring an “updated” retail corridor to the stretch, which has undergone a resurgence in recent years.
“With The 606 developed and the neighborhood seeing a lot of people investing, I thought it was prudent to bring this beautiful building back to life,” said Giannoulias, who has owned the property for about 15 years.
Before the renovation, the building was home to various retailers, including a dollar store and insurance company office. Giannoulias said he wants to bring in restaurants and other “destination” retailers — about eight in total.
The property owner is also finalizing a deal with a tenant who would take over an old 7,500-square-foot theater space, the former home of early 1900s-era Bismark Theatre, which was later renamed the Armitage Theatre.
Giannoulias described it as “one of the old-school Chicago theaters for when people wanted to catch a movie to get some air conditioning.” The building doesn’t have historical significance, but it is old, which has proven exciting for Giannoulias and his team.
“In my opinion, Chicagoans don’t always want shiny glass objects. They want some historically relevant developments,” he said. “We kept all of the exposed brick and the wood truss ceilings. We did find an old theater film room and film closets where they stored old film — and a pretty incredible staircase to go up there.”
Giannoulias wasn’t ready to divulge the names of the tenants as the deals have not gone through yet, but he said he expects to announce more details in the coming months.
At one point, Giannoulias said he was considering building a residential development on the site, but ultimately decided against it.
“We looked at different scenarios — adding residential units, which is what you can finance for nowadays,” he said. “When push came to shove, we thought the neighborhood would like to see [retail].”
Joe Padorr of Seneca Real Estate Group, Giannoulias’ broker, said Logan Square is seeing the kind of growth Wicker Park saw 15 years ago — and that growth is expanding west.
“There’s been a lot of positive changes as developers buy older properties and either adaptively rehab them or build market-rate apartments with retail below,” Padorr said.
Giannoulias said that’s precisely why he chose to pursue the project now rather than several years ago.
“It was demand driven,” he said of his decision to redevelop now. “The city is moving west. It was the time to do something. We felt the neighborhood would really appreciate update retail and they wouldn’t appreciate some big, bulky multi-use, mixed-use building.”