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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Uptown’s Historical Preston Bradley Center, With 1,300-Seat Auditorium, For Sale

The Preston Bradley Center was built in 1925. It has housed the Peoples Church and social service groups ever since.

The Preston Bradley Center, with its nearly 1,300 seat auditorium, is listed for sale.
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UPTOWN — The Preston Bradley Center could be getting a new owner for the first time in its nearly 100-year history.

The church, cultural center and social services building at 941 W. Lawrence Ave. is listed for sale. There is no asking price listed for the massive, classical revival-style building, according to its listing.

The Preston Bradley Center was built by its namesake, Rev. Preston Bradley, in 1925 to house his Peoples Church of Chicago. It has been owned by the church ever since, though the building has taken on new lives and tenants throughout the years.

After years of seeking to preserve and reposition the building in Uptown’s burgeoning entertainment district, the Peoples Church is seeking offers for the building.

The six-story building includes a nearly 1,300-seat auditorium with two balconies. It has a large hall or event space, office space and art studios, according to the listing.

Credit: Eric Allix Rogers/Open House Chicago
Preston Bradley Center.

A parking lot is also included on the 15,000-square-foot property.

The Preston Bradley Center is currently home to the Peoples Church, two other church congregations, a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, the Uptown Arts Center and the Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles.

It is unclear what would happen to those tenants under a new owner. A representative of the Peoples Church did not return requests for comment, and the listing agent for the property declined to comment Tuesday.

Redevelopment of the site could be constrained by the building’s historical status.

The Preston Bradley Center is included in the Uptown Square District, which was given city landmark status in 2016. The building is “orange” rated in the city’s historical survey, meaning plans to demolish or substantially alter the exterior of the building would require approval from the Chicago Landmarks Commission.

The building is currently zoned as a community shopping district, with residential uses allowed above the ground floor.

Credit: DNAinfo file photo
The Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence Ave.

Attempts to revive the Preston Bradley Center have been made before.

As the city announced a new Uptown entertainment district centered around a reopened Uptown Theatre, Preston Bradley Center officials sought zoning changes for the building to bring in more uses.

The zoning change helped the center host more events in its auditorium, including a 2016 concert that was near capacity, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The rezoning efforts were prompted by financial issues with the building, Preston Bradley Center officials told DNAinfo in 2014. The building needed significant maintenance work, building board members said at the time.

The Preston Bradley Center wouldn’t be the first historical Uptown building to be redeveloped under a new owner.

The nearby Lawrence House was redeveloped from single-room occupancy hotel to upscale micro-apartments by prolific development firm Cedar Street.

Cedar Street has also purchased the Wilson Theater, 1050 W. Wilson Ave., which it plans to reopen as the new home of iconic rock club Double Door.

The Wilson Theater has housed a number of uses over the years, including most recently a bank. In 1914, Preston Bradley moved his Peoples Church congregation into the theater, but the charismatic preacher quickly outgrew the venue.

In 1925, Preston Bradley hired famed architect John E.O. Pridmore — who designed the Vic Theater in Lakeview — to build him a new church at 941 W. Lawrence.

The Preston Bradley Center has remained intact ever since.

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