UPTOWN — Double Door’s move to Uptown is coming into clearer focus after the rock club’s plans to renovate a historical theater got approved by the city’s landmarks commission.
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks this month approved Double Door’s planned renovation of the Wilson Theater building at 1050 W. Wilson Ave. into the concert venue’s new home.
Venue owners plan to renovate the 1908 theater and add a sign and marquee modeled after Double Door’s iconic neon sign on its longtime Wicker Park home.
The vote marks a milestone in the years-long effort to reopen Double Door following its eviction from its Wicker Park location in 2017 after 23 years.
Double Door’s move to Uptown was announced in 2019, but prolonged negotiations over the location — and the pandemic — stalled the project, club co-owners Sean Mulroney and Pete Bruce said previously on Double Door’s official podcast.
The project has been moving forward with interior work and demolition. Double Door has even hosted some shows inside.
“Demolition is cruising along,” Bruce said on the Double Door podcast’s most recent episode that dropped in August. “We’ve got plenty to do.”
Double Door will inhabit the Wilson Theater building that debuted in 1908 as a venue for vaudeville shows. The building has spent many decades as a bank until TCF Bank closed its branch there in 2011. It’s sat vacant since.
In restoring the theater, Double Door will build out a music venue with two mezzanine levels around the main floor, plus a balcony and some VIP seating, Bruce previously told Block Club. The main venue will have an estimated capacity of 750.
A bank vault is the building’s basement will be turned into a lounge with a bar. Bruce and Mulroney said in their podcast they have hired a safe cracker to open the vault’s safe as they continue to renovate the theater.
“We’re going to utilize as much parts of the building and repurpose them as we can,” Mulroney said in the podcast. “We’re going to have fun with it.”
The venue will also have a 17-foot-tall sign, according to plans shared at the recent landmark committee meeting. Double Door’s owners previously said the sign could include branding or naming rights similar to Aragon Ballroom’s addition of Byline Bank to its sign.
There are also plans for a 31-foot-wide marquee which would advertise coming shows at the venue. City planners have asked Double Door’s team to reduce the height of the marquee to keep it in character with the Uptown Square Historic District.
The venue’s additions to the building’s facade required approval from the landmarks commission because of its status as a contributing building to the national historic district. The Wilson Theater building is the oldest surviving theater in the Uptown historic district. It held a sign and marquee in its early days, according to the city.
“This is a smaller theater compared to the other theaters in the district,” Joyce Ramos, preservation architect with the city, said at the commission meeting. “We just wanted to keep the character of this marquee within the proportions of this building.”
Double Door’s team said they will work to reduce the marquee’s height. Both the marquee and the sign will need to come back to the city for separate permits.
In a message, Bruce said the Double Door plans still need further city approval as well as the issuance of building permits. The club is aiming for a summer opening, he said.
“If that doesn’t happen, then [we’ll have] a spectacular Halloween opening,” Bruce said.
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