Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Update: The battle over the Uptown Theater continues

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As reported last month, it's going to be a long, ugly fight between all of the interested parties before someone finally emerges with clear title to the venerable Uptown Theater -- and even longer before the extensive repairs can be made to restore the once regal movie palace for use as a grand concert venue.

But there have been two developments in recent weeks, and neither was particularly good news for local promoters Jam Productions.

Jam is part of a company that holds the second mortgage on the property. The first mortgage is held by a group called Broadway for Uptown that is reportedly seeking to work with the giant national concert promoter Live Nation. And Ald. Mary Ann Smith (48th) has made no secret of the fact that she favors the latter.

Last week, the City Housing Court maintained that it has the right to impose a long list of requirements on bidders in a foreclosure sale on the property -- requirements that Jam contends were tailored to Live Nation. The Illinois Supreme Court also recently ruled against the Jam group's request that it force a foreclosure sale on the property.

You're forgiven if the preceding paragraph makes little sense: The legal morass at the heart of this case is one of the worst this reporter has ever tried to untangle. The bottom line?

On the one side, Jam and its partners say they stand ready to pay off the first mortgage and, once it's clear they're the owners, begin bringing the theater back to life.

On the other side, for all the talk of Broadway for Uptown doing the same in partnership with Live Nation, it's not at all clear that they own the theater and have any right to do that.

What happens next? Several possibilities:

A.) A foreclosure sale is finally scheduled and Jam and its partners obtain clear title.

B.) The city somehow steps in and takes some sort of action that awards the theater to the Live Nation side.

C.) The whole tortured mess continues to stay tied up in court as the historic theater crumbles and Chicagoans lose out.

At least, that's my read on things. Ald. Smith's office did not respond to a request to comment. Live Nation would not comment. And Broadway for Uptown has not responded to any of my attempts to talk to the group.

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This has been going on for years and years. I am cautiously hopeful that the situation is at last nearing a happy end.

Given what they don't spend on improving or keeping up the venues they currently control, why would anyone think that JAM would be a good steward of the Uptown? The sooner JAM gets out of the way and lets the other prospect spend the money they want to and renovate the venue, the sooner the job will get underway with a truly capable, well-backed and well-intentioned owner-operator. If JAM continues to log-jam the thing, the Uptown may lose the best chance its had since 1996. To see JAM holding onto this unrealistic dream is becoming sadder and more misguided by the day. JAM is truly doing harm to the Uptown's opportunity for reuse.

CHICAGO, IL — It has come to the attention of the Balaban and Katz Historical Foundation that the Uptown Theater building at 4816 North Broadway in Chicago will be auctioned publicly on July 29th at 10:30 am at the offices of the Judicial Sales Corporation. The address is 1 South Wacker Drive (24th floor) in Chicago.

The Judicial Sales Corporation has a website. The law firm involved in the case is Noonan and Lieberman LTD. located at 105 West Adams Street Chicago. The Balaban and Katz Historical Foundation’s website is here. Our email is The most recent interior pictures of the theater may be viewed at

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on May 17, 2008 9:38 AM.

Update: The fight against the promoters' ordinance continues was the previous entry in this blog.

Remembering Lydia Tomkiw is the next entry in this blog.

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