Save The Portage Theater!

UPDATE:  Please join the Facebook group Save the Portage Theater and help spread the word! Thanks!

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One of Chicago’s last remaining independent theaters, The Portage, is being threatened with closure.  Ward 45’s Alderman John Arena sent out the warning to his neighbors, but all of Chicago should take notice of this:

In September 2011, I was approached by the leadership of the Chicago Tabernacle 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, I issued a letter opposing the requested use but made it clear that we would welcome the congregation to our community. I directed them to alternate locations that might suit their needs.

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.

This is an historic theater that provides music, dance and film entertainment for an entire community of arts lovers. It’s the main independent venue for non-profit organizations and events such as The Northwest Chicago Film Society, The Silent Film Society of Chicago, The Chicago Cinema Society, The Chicago Horror Film Festival and others. Many neighbors and nearby businesses have expressed concern that the church’s takeover would disrupt development plans for Portage Park.

If you are wondering about the potential buyer, The Chicago Tabernacle, it’s a church that teaches, among other things, about the “End Times.”

From the church’s website:

We believe sin has separated each of us from God and His purpose for our lives. In order to receive forgiveness, we must repent of our sins, believe in Jesus Christ and submit to His will for our lives. …

We believe the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back again as He promised and will rule and reign on this earth. History will conclude as the wicked are judged and the righteous enter a new heaven and a new earth.

Losing The Portage Theater would be a major blow to those who produce and market independent Chicago-based entertainment. Shutting down this wonderful place makes it that much harder for those who truly love films to find an alternative to Jack and Jill and other Hollywood mush.

Email your thoughts to Alderman John Arena (who’s fighting hard against the theater closure):  ward45@cityofchicago.org

I would also send a message to The Chicago Tabernacle, but PLEASE BE CIVIL.  The conflict is not about who they are, it’s about what’s going to be lost to Portage Park and all of Chicago. Thanks and spread the word!

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12 responses to “Save The Portage Theater!

  1. If the conflict is not “about who they are”, as you say, then why do you feel compelled to take out of context part of what they believe? I see nothing but a direct attack on a group of people you know nothing about.

  2. I agree with David completely. You lose credibility when you post their so beliefs.

    • Except that What They Believe is potentially indicative of their motives. There is a long history of Fundamentalist Christian churches energetically attempting to censor what they deem to be objectionable. Given that, it would hardly be out of character for a church whose belief statement says, “History will conclude as the wicked are judged and the righteous enter a new heaven and a new earth” – in other words, Fundamentalist – to be highly motivated by the prospect of shutting down “the main independent venue for non-profit organizations and events such as The Northwest Chicago Film Society, The Silent Film Society of Chicago, The Chicago Cinema Society, The Chicago Horror Film Festival and others.” To be clear, I don’t know if that is their motivation. I’m saying that history often rhymes, even if it doesn’t repeat.

  3. It’s fair to post the substance of the organization attempting to take control of the Portage Theatre. The Theatre states what it believes, what it offers the community and why it shouldn’t be allowed to disappear and reciprocally cites the Tabernacle’s own vision and beliefs in the interest of open discourse and argument. This article does not demean or put in a negative light the Tabernacle’s belief system, it merely highlights it so that residents of Portage Park may have a bit more information with which to decide if they want either organization in their community. It’s totally fair.

  4. big john..........

    PEOPLE HAVE VOICED………NO CHURCH NOT WELCOME HERE….FIND A PLACE WERE YOUR WELCOME…….THIS WOULD BE THE FINAL BLOW TO SIX CORNERS……..WERE GROWING NOW…..

  5. The real issue is the fact that the church is aware of the opposition of the neighborhood in buying that property. A church should be a light and support for the community they are in. All Christians believe in end times and the Second Coming of Christ, so not sure what that has to do with the group. A healthy church will be a blessing to a neighborhood. But that depends on that church. Does anyone know anything about this church or the leadership? Has anyone googled and performed the due dilegence on these people? With so many church scandals today the last thing we need is a cult or a scandalous church in our neighborhood. Google the pastor and the church and its affiliates and see if they are a good fit, if they have a good track record. Go to Albany Park and ask the current neighbors about the church. But don’t judge them based on their essential Christian belief that Christ is coming again. A church could be good for the area, just not good for Portage Theater. There has to be a resolution that will satisfy all parties. If they are truly seeking the good of Portage Park they will seek other options. There are many viable alternatives according to the Alderman John Arena so lets see if they practice what they preach.

  6. The point is, this church can go anywhere and carry out their misison. The Portage Theater cannot go anywhere and continue it’s mission. The Portage Theater is a fixture of that particular geography, that’s what the call to action is for. I don’t belive those opposed to the church buying this parcel are opposed to WHO they are, but rather the fact that they plan to remove the theater. I oppose any plans to change or remove the Portage Theater, regardless of who that may be.

  7. THE PEOPLE IN THIS AREA DON’T WANT THE CHURCH THERE…ITS BLACK AND WHITE …..WHY DON’T THEY JUST FIND A NEW PLACE TO PUT THE CHURCH WERE THEY WOULD BE WELCOME….. LETS SEE IF ANY OF THE CHURCH PEOPLE COME TO THE RALLY TO SEE HOW MUCH THEY WOULD BE WELCOME HERE………..FACE THE MUSIC . BRING YOUR PRAY BOOKS .. SHOW US HOW YOU WOULD TELL THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE TO GET OUT….AND HOW THE TAX’S WILL GO UP FOR THE REST OF the area…….. PRICELESS

  8. This “Church” is a money making scam a la scientology. All one has to do is look at their Brooklyn branch to see how they behave. The brooklyn pastor lives in a 5m mansion paid for by “church” funds where he is waited on hand and foot.

    This “church” hired a high priced zoning lawyer to fight the community. They have money for this because they are fleecing their flock so to say. We need to expose just how rich the church’s leadership is and how they are NOT a not profit or community organization.

    They’re going to bus people in and crap all over the community taking up parking spaces and blocking residents from parking in front of their homes.

    The “church” obviously wants horror fest and all of the other “satanic” entertainment/bars/etc OUT.

    The only reason they haven’t enumerated their position is because its politically important to keep it a secret until they own the place.

    We need to perform an exorcism of our own and DOX the shit out of these scammers. Just how rich is Al Toledo? What is the income gap between him and parishioners? Why do they have a security detail?

    I’m taking my stand, “Rev” Toledo. Prove me wrong or GTFO.

  9. Pingback: Portage Theater Sale: Final Zoning Meeting Friday Will Determine Landmark’s Fate

  10. Lynn Hamilton

    The Portage is SUCH a treasure, it would be a terrible pity to lose it. I’ve written a petition to save it:

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/845/869/522/save-the-portage-theater/

    Would you please sign it and share it with friends of the theater? Thank you.

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