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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

City Council Revives Congress Theater Redevelopment Plan, Sets Up Key Votes To Advance $88 Million Project

The $88 million proposal was pulled out of the Rules Committee, which is considered legislative purgatory, after a labor agreement was reached between the theater operator and a local labor union.

The Congress Theater seen from above in Logan Square on Feb. 6, 2023.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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LOGAN SQUARE — Long-discussed plans to rehab the deteriorating Congress Theater are back on track, with a key city panel expected to vote on the proposal as early as next month.

Developer Baum Revision is asking for $27 million in tax-increment financing to support the $88 million renovation.

The funding request was introduced to City Council last month, but staunch union supporter Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) temporarily blocked further consideration of the ordinance over labor concerns.

RELATED: $88 Million Congress Theater Redevelopment Plan Blocked By South Side Alderperson Over Labor Concerns

Sadlowski Garza sent the proposal to Rules Committee — sometimes referred to as legislative purgatory. Alderpeople voted Wednesday to bring the ordinance out of its standstill, and it will now be considered by the council’s Finance Committee before a final vote before the full council.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The lobby of the Congress Theater in Logan Square on Feb. 6, 2023.

In a text message, project champion Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) said AEG, the theater operator, and labor union UNITE HERE Local 1, have reached a labor agreement to resolve Sadlowski Garza’s concerns. La Spata declined to comment further.

A representative for UNITE HERE Local 1 didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The historical Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave., is in a dire state after sitting vacant for a decade and years of negligence.

Baum plans to fully restore the 2,900-seat, 1920s music venue as well as the surrounding retail shops and apartments.

The ambitious project includes roughly 5,400 square feet of retail and restaurant space along Milwaukee Avenue and Rockwell Street, 16 apartments and affordable offices and work space on the second and third floors. Fourteen of the apartments would be reserved as affordable housing.

Baum is the second developer in recent years to endeavor an extensive rehab of the Congress Theater, which was shut down by the city in 2013 for code and safety violations after embattled former owner Eddie Carranza defaulted on $4 million in loans.

The project’s previous developer, Michael Moyer, defaulted on his loans.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Decay and water damage seen in the hallway at the Congress Theater in Logan Square on Feb. 6, 2023.

Built in 1926 by Fridstein & Co., the Congress is one of the last-remaining theaters associated with famous “moving picture theater” operators Lubliner & Trinz. It is a city landmark with an impressive number of original architectural details.

But the historical theater has crumbled in recent years as redevelopment efforts have stalled.

RELATED: As Congress Theater Crumbles, Developer Wants $27 Million From City To Revive Logan Square Gem

Baum officials previously said the theater’s worsening condition — combined with higher construction costs — have made the renovation project challenging.

The redevelopment proposal will go up for approval at the next Finance Committee meeting, which hasn’t been scheduled yet but could be held as early as next month.

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