Preservation Success in Chicago's Uptown Neighborhood
Dec. 21, 2016
Landmarks Illinois is excited to share the news that the Uptown Square District in Chicago has been granted official landmark status by City Council. The Chicago Landmark District designation – an effort Landmarks Illinois has advocated for for 15 years – protects 42 historically significant structures near the intersection of Lawrence Avenue and Broadway on the city’s North Side.
The Riviera Theater, Aragon Ballroom, Leland Hotel and Green Mill Gardens – known for its jazz and poetry performances – are just some of the historically significant buildings in Uptown that now have further protection from future demolition or major alterations. These buildings represent the work of notable Chicago architects like Rapp & Rapp, John Eberson, Marshall & Fox and Walter Ahlschlager.
“Most of the contributing structures are clad or detailed in terra cotta, ranging from red and buff matte finishes to multi colored enamel and glazes in Art Deco, Venetian Gothic and Spanish Baroque Revival architectural styles,” the City of Chicago’s press release on the news stated.
Landmarks Illinois’ efforts to designate the Uptown district date back to 2001, and include the help of LI Board Member and Uptown resident Martin Tangora. While the district is listed on the National Register of Historic places – an important designation that allows the use of the Federal Historic Tax Credit for rehabilitation, it does not provide adequate protection against demolition. In a statement to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in September 2016, Landmarks Illinois Director of Advocacy Lisa DiChiera pointed out how the loss of Uptown’s Plymouth Hotel at 4700 Broadway in 2003 shows the National Register designation was “purely honorific.” Landmarks Illinois believed the future of Uptown Square depended on the preservation, reuse and protection of its rich historic commercial and residential buildings.
“Chicago landmark designation is a sound planning tool that will both preserve the distinctive character of this special place and will offer a new men of economic incentive options for building owners,” DiChiera said in her statement to the commission. “Many developers and building owners already recognize that redevelopment and marketing of irreplaceable buildings, that could never be replicated today, is a sound investment. In order for protection and further investment of this district to continue, we urge this designation to move forward.”
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved Uptown’s landmark designation status in October, sending its recommendation to City Council. At the Dec. 14, 2016 City Council meeting, council members voted to approve the designation for the district. Individually designated landmark buildings residing within the new Uptown Landmark District include the Uptown Theater, the Mutual Insurance Building and the former Sheridan Trust and Savings Bank.
(Photo: The historic and popular Green Mill is one of the buildings protected by the City’s landmark status)