The latest chapter of the efforts to save The Portage Theater from being sold to Chicago Tabernacle takes an interesting turn.
Alderman John Arena announced he brought forth an ordinance allowing the City of Chicago to purchase The Portage to then be hopefully sold to buyers who would preserve the building and maintain its previous use. From the Alderman:
Recently, I filed an ordinance authorizing the City to exercise its powers of eminent domain to buy the building. This is not a step that I take lightly. I have consulted with the Mayor’s administration, and we remain hopeful that we can preserve this critical economic engine without implementing this solution.
The reasons for this action are two-fold: (1) to avoid the sale to the church or any other non-profit that would eliminate a tax base needed for the area, and (2) to speed up the process of having new businesses requiring liquor and amusement licenses open near the theater.
Several restaurants and potential cultural attractions are waiting for the resolution of this issue before they come to our community. The church’s proposed use for the Portage would make it impossible for anyone to get a liquor license within 100 feet of the building. It would make it impossible for anyone to get a public place of amusement license (needed for music venues and most theaters) within 250 feet without the church’s permission. Because the Portage Theater building is so large, these zones would extend to the south side of Irving Park Road, in addition to Milwaukee Avenue near the theater.
Simply put, the proposed use would gouge a huge hole in Six Corners where there would be no new restaurants, and where any proposed theater or entertainment venue would require the church’s permission. It would stifle development at a time when Six Corners is ready to take off. This community has worked too hard for too long for me not to use every option available to preserve and enhance this economic and cultural engine.
I continue to remain ready to help Chicago Tabernacle with alternative sites. Thank you for your continued support of this community treasure.
Let’s hope the City is okay with this and that Chicago Tabernacle will finally agree to an alternative building.