Congress Theater

2135 N. Milwaukee Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60647

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DavidZornig on September 24, 2018 at 3:43 pm

Congress development related article.

BobbyS on July 6, 2018 at 8:33 pm

I heard all about the Uptown and couldn’t be more thrilled..What amazes me so many people think it had clouds & stars in the ceiling… They are confused.

DavidZornig on July 6, 2018 at 9:54 am

BobbyS, hop on over the Uptown’s page. Great news awaits…

In the meantime, here’s a current WBEZ piece on the Congress.

BobbyS on June 12, 2018 at 9:35 pm

If only The Uptown Theater a few miles away got the same great news from the city. I am afraid it never will. That is the sad news here. Bravo to the Congress!!

LouRugani on June 12, 2018 at 5:37 pm

Congress Theater getting $69.2M renovation, including $9.6M city subsidy (Fran Spielman, Sun-Times)

The Congress Theater, in the 2100 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, has been shuttered since 2013. Owners of Logan Square’s shuttered but historic Congress Theater got the go-ahead Tuesday for a $69.2 million renovation that will restore live music to a nearly century-old building where Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis once played.

With help from a $9.6 million city subsidy, developer Michael Moyer hopes to host up to 125 live music shows-a-year at the renovated, 4,900-seat theater.

That would happen after his investment group completes a redevelopment plan at the venue, 2135 N. Milwaukee, that includes a 30-room boutique hotel, 16,000 square-feet of ground floor retail and restoration of 14 now-vacant apartments that will remain affordable after the renovation.

The project also includes a 100-unit residential building adjacent to the Congress Theater with at least 30 percent of the units earmarked for affordable housing.

The plan unanimously approved by the Community Development Commission calls for the long-awaited project to be financed, in part, by a $9.6 million subsidy generated by the surrounding Fullerton-Milwaukee tax-increment-financing (TIF) district. Another $800,000 TIF subsidy will be earmarked for the residential building.

The Congress was built in 1926 — in the Classical Revival and Italian Renaissance style — and originally operated as an ornate movie theater.

Moyer served as managing member of PalMet Venture LLC, which was established to redevelop the $120 million historic mixed-use block adjacent to City Hall that included the renovation of the Cadillac Palace theater and the Hotel Allegro.

Tuesday’s vote marked a major turnaround for the Logan Square theater where Berry and Lewis once strutted their stuff.

Built during the 1920’s, the Congress was designated in 2002 as a Chicago landmark and more recently earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

In April 2013, the city threw the book at the Congress Theater after the latest in a string of failed inspections.

The city’s lengthy motion detailed 26 violations at the theater, including a faulty electrical system, bare electrical cable wires strewn throughout the basement and defective lights.

“Based on the dangerous and hazardous nature of the building code violations, it is clear that the Congress Theater is a public nuisance and the continued operation of the business poses a continued harm to the occupants and the public,” the city’s motion said.

The theater’s ventilation system and a fire curtain tailor-made to prevent a fire from spreading were City Hall’s biggest concerns, but subsequently passed a city inspection.

That prompted a court order reducing occupancy on the theater’s first floor from 4,500 to 3000, and requiring then-owner Eddie Carranza to staff each event with two fire guards to help with overcrowding and guide concertgoers in case of a fire.

Concertgoers were further ordered to remain on the first floor of the theater because the second floor remained closed while staff worked to fix a backup generator.

The theater also agreed to have two fire guards and one stage fire guard at all shows to ensure safety and to guide concertgoers in case of an emergency, according to the order.

Five weeks later, the embattled Congress Theater was stripped of its liquor and business licenses.

It happened after a city hearing officer found the theater violated city codes “because within 12 consecutive months 5 separate incidents occurred on the licensed premises while the establishment was open for business involving acts that violated a state law regulating narcotics or controlled substances.”

In four disciplinary hearings, the city detailed alleged drug-related incidents and other alleged violations at the popular music venue in Logan Square.

They included allegations that staffers failed to call 911 to report a large fight during a Chief Keef rap concert in April 2012 and didn’t cooperate with police when seven underage concertgoers were let into a concert.

Carranza promised to appeal, but told the Chicago Sun-Times in a text message, “I don’t have the resources and money the city has to keep going on with court hearings.”

“We built a very strong music brand and revived a forgotten theater building. There will be plenty of buyers and operators interested in [taking] over our business,” Carranza wrote.

Carranza suggested then that he was being forced to sell. “The liquor commissioner sent a clear message he has some personal issue with me operating my theater,” he wrote.

The theater closed later that year and has been shuttered ever since.

DavidZornig on October 17, 2017 at 8:38 pm

Current article with pics.

BobbyS on September 5, 2017 at 9:06 pm

I am glad to hear it is going forward.. To me it seems the work has stopped….

rso1000 on September 5, 2017 at 3:13 pm

In the photos section… This is the movie on the Marquee

DavidZornig on March 21, 2017 at 5:05 pm

More Congress finds…

DavidZornig on March 7, 2017 at 11:03 am

This article about vintage candy wrappers found in the Congress Theater popped up today.

spectrum on June 8, 2016 at 8:16 am

According to the article here, the renovations have begun! Currently they are working on the front facade repairing the brickwork (approx. $550,000). No timetable yet for when the interior work will begin. It will be a $55,000,000 project including the entire building which was landmarked by the city in 2002.

BobbyS on January 6, 2016 at 9:40 am

I wonder where Balaban & Katz got the money to buy out two major chains in Chicago in the late 20’s. Lubliner & Trinz and the Marks Bros. Where they both ripe for take over? Or did they have too much debt?

DavidZornig on January 6, 2016 at 7:54 am

1929 photo added courtesy of the Logan Square Preservation Facebook page.

Senorsock on January 27, 2015 at 11:44 pm

Some great photos in this story about the Congress renovation.

BobbyS on January 15, 2015 at 11:11 pm

I wonder how this will affect the Uptown theater project with the Congress, Portage & Patio doing live shows also.

LouRugani on January 14, 2015 at 4:01 pm

The Congress Theatre for the last year has been caught up in a legal battle between developer Michael Moyer and event promoters who claimed to have the right of first refusal to purchase the property after its previous owner Eddie Carranza finally gave up his fight with the city and Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno and decided to sell the historic building. However WBEZ reports that Moyer is set to close on the Congress Theater sometime in the next 60 to 90 days. In a press release, Alderman Moreno revealed that the redevelopment of the theater will also include a small inn and affordable housing units. According to previous estimates, repairs to the Congress Theater could cost up to $20 million and take years to restore. Moyer, who previously redeveloped the downtown Cadillac Palace, will work with Woodhouse Tinucci Architects and W.E. O'Neil Construction on the Congress Theater project. To kick off the beginning of the Congress' new life, Alderman Moreno and New Congress, LLC will hold an open house at the theater on Saturday, January 24 from 1-4pm.

spectrum on December 18, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Is the Congress Theatre close?? Their website is down.

RickB on January 21, 2014 at 5:44 pm

A sale of the Congress is announced, but there are complications—two other entities say they have right of first refusal. WBEZ story here.

RickB on May 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm

City’s Liquor Control Commission moves to revoke liquor license. Carranza says he’ll appeal, but he is also mulling a sale of the theater. DNAInfo story here.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 27, 2013 at 11:02 am

New charges. Liquor license in jeopardy:

One of these days Carranza is going to run out of luck.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on December 21, 2012 at 5:23 am

Good article, sums up the whole rotten mess really good, I would'nt want that guy living next door to me!

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 7, 2012 at 8:08 am

It’s nice to see the building is going to be renovated. Regarding the Portage: I seriously doubt the seats would be kept. Every converted old theater in the city that I am aware of removed them from the main floor.

matthew1964 on August 1, 2012 at 11:55 am


DavidZornig on July 25, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I would only be against them taking over the Portage, if they insist on removing the seats. The neighborhood is still a movie going clientele. One of the main reasons there was such opposition to the church. If they remove the seats to make it a concert venue only, it will be the same as if the church had taken it over anyway. There will be no way to run classic films or staged events without seats.

Broan on March 16, 2012 at 11:52 am

Some great photos from 2000 are here