Plan would reopen Congress Theater, add affordable housing and boutique hotel

Logan Square’s historic Congress Theatre will be restored and reopened as part of a $69.2 million redevelopment project that includes a boutique hotel and affordable apartments.

New Congress LLC purchased the mixed-use building in 2015 and worked with Alderman Moreno and City staff on a redevelopment plan that both revitalizes the building and addresses neighborhood needs. In addition to increasing the theater’s capacity to 4,900 and refurbishing approximately 40,000 square feet of retail space, the project’s first phase will re-purpose the building’s market rate apartments into 44 boutique hotel rooms and 14 affordable units for residents earning between 50 and 80 percent of area median income.

A subsequent phase will create an approximately 100-unit residential building with 30 affordable apartments and ground-floor retail on vacant land at the northwest corner of Milwaukee and Rockwell Avenue.

Built in 1926 at 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave., the 160,000-square-foot complex is the largest surviving “theater block” in Chicago, originally containing a 2,900-seat auditorium, 17 retail storefronts and 56 apartments. It was designed by Fridstein and Co. in the Classical Revival and Italian Renaissance styles for the Bubliner & Trinz movie theater chain.

The building was designated a Chicago Landmark in 2002 and named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. The theater in recent years was primarily used for concerts and special events before closing due to building code violations in 2013.

Up to $9.65 million in proposed Tax Increment Financing (TIF) assistance for the project, including $800,000 for the phase two complex on Rockwell, was approved by the Community Development Commission (CDC) on June 12. TIF assistance could be presented to City Council for approval this summer. Portions of the restoration were approved by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in 2016. Additional approvals may be required.

New Congress is led by CEO Michael Moyer, whose preservation work includes the $120 million restoration of the Cadillac Palace Theatre and adjacent Hotel Allegro in the Loop.

The project is estimated to generate 75 permanent and 250 construction jobs.