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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Congress Theater Overhaul, Grace’s Furniture Hotel Both Approved By Zoning Committee

The projects cleared the last significant regulatory hurdle they'll face.

A rendering of the boutique hotel taking over the Grace’s Furniture building, at 2618 N. Milwaukee Ave.
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LOGAN SQUARE — Two big Logan Square projects scored unanimous approval from the Committee on Zoning Thursday.

The first was the $95 million overhaul of the notoriously rundown Congress Theater, which is set to get nearly $10 million from the tax-increment financing district.

Under the plan, the 1920s-era theater at 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave. is getting a total overhaul. There will also be a 30-room hotel, 14 affordable apartments and 16,000 square feet of retail space in the surrounding 160,000-square-foot theater building. A seven-story, 72-unit residential building will be built on the vacant lot next to the theater.

The Committee on Zoning was the last significant regulatory hurdle for the project, which has been in the works for years.

Commissioners on Thursday also approved the construction of a boutique hotel at the Grace’s Furniture site at 2616-18 N. Milwaukee Ave., another project that has been held up for years.

The plan has undergone some changes since it was last presented to the community. For one, the original developer, LG Development, has dropped out of the project. It’s now a partnership between Marc Realty and Blue Star Properties, according to Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, whose 35th Ward includes the site.

Blue Star Properties wants to reduce the total number of hotel rooms to allow for a fifth floor banquet facility. They’re also looking to make some minor tweaks to the facade and the HVAC system.

If those changes are approved by the community group overseeing the project, Logan Square Preservation, it will head to the full City Council next week, Ramirez-Rosa said. But if there’s more work left to do, the alderman said he’s prepared to hold off until the next City Council meeting. 

“Our 35th Ward Community-Driven Zoning and Development process helped make this project a reality with local stakeholders at the table from start to finish,” Ramirez-Rosa said in a written statement.

“The final plan will truly be reflective of the community’s priorities for a building on a highly visible corner that once was nothing more than a platform for billboards that the community fought at every turn.”

Redevelopment of the building, one of the most prominent structures overlooking Logan Square and the Illinois Centennial Monument, has been held up for years by a legal battle over the billboards on the side of the building facing the square. 

The city banned billboards on the side of the building in 2013, and the billboards’ owner, Visualcast, fought the measure in court. The city won the lawsuit and the last billboard was removed in May of 2016.

Ramirez-Rosa said Bluestar Properties had expressed interest in keeping the empty billboards up and projecting movies and art on them, but the alderman said he nixed that idea.

The alderman applauded the development team for signing a community benefits agreement and agreeing to pay workers a living wage of $17/hour.

Both the boutique hotel and the heater overhaul passed at Thursday’s hearing with no debate.

Check out the latest elevation renderings of the hotel below: