As you know, I have always worked for the preservation of historic places in our community. That work has continued, albeit with new tools, since you elected me to represent the 45th Ward.
In September 2011, I was approached by the leadership of the Chicago Tabernacle, a church in Albany Park, seeking my support for the conversion of the Portage Theater to a church. I offered to have them present their plan to my office and follow the established zoning review process. Declining, they asked that I weigh in before they invested time and money in pursuing a building use that I might oppose. After consulting the Six Corners Association and local community groups (Portage Park Neighbors’ Association and Old Irving Park Association), I issued a letter opposing the requested use but made it clear that we would welcome the congregation to our community. In that spirit, I directed them to alternate locations that might suit their needs. We were thanked for our efforts, and I believed that to be the end of the matter. But that was not the case.
Despite my letter, Chicago Tabernacle continued to pursue the purchase of the building. To date, we have not received the documents needed to begin our full zoning review process. We learned last week that they intended to file with the Department of Zoning for a special use permit allowing them to operate the historic Portage Theater as a church. Yesterday, the permit notification was posted per city code.
I also requested and received from the Department of Zoning the changes proposed for the theater. They are extensive.Chicago Tabernacle plans to remove the theater marquee, eliminate of more than half of the apartments in the building and evict of many established businesses in the storefronts.They also propose interior changes that could significantly impact the character of this historic theater.
Let me say loud and clear that I am not opposed to the church moving into our community. I will continue to seek a resolution that benefits both Chicago Tabernacle and our community.
The loss of this historic icon in the heart of the Six Corners Shopping District would reverse years of planning and development. The historic Portage Theater can serve as an economic engine for that area. As we prepare to present our case to the Zoning Board of Appeals, I ask that you share your thoughts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.