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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): email@example.com
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!