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Added Mar 09 2012

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.

I also requested and received from the Department of Zoning the changes proposed for the theater. They are extensive. Chicago Tabernacle plans to remove the theater marquee, eliminate of more than half of the apartments in the building and evict of many established businesses in the storefronts. They also propose interior changes that could significantly impact the character of this historic theater.

Let me say loud and clear that I am not opposed to the church moving into our community. I will continue to seek a resolution that benefits both Chicago Tabernacle and our community.

The loss of this historic icon in the heart of the Six Corners Shopping District would reverse years of planning and development. The historic Portage Theater can serve as an economic engine for that area. As we prepare to present our case to the Zoning Board of Appeals, I ask that you share your thoughts by emailing ward45@cityofchicago.org.

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside


    Directions from the Alderman as to how the community can proceed are found in the new thread he created here on Everyblock


  • Bob Kastigar 15 Years North Park, bike rider, retired

    After prayer, discernment and a series of conversations, the Congregation, at a special meeting on December 4, 2011, voted to disband as a worshiping community, completing its ministry on June 10, 2012.

    Mayfair Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded on February 4, 1931, 81 years ago Countless men, women, and children have shared God’s gifts of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion at Mayfair.

    4335 W. Lawrence Ave. ( http://g.co/maps/59exa )
    Chicago, IL 60630
    773 725-7879


    George C. Loellick

  • Cal Portage Park resident

    I don't think it is big enough. We are dealing with a mega church. they get thier importance buy how big thier church is. Kind of like my gun is bigger than your gun kind of mentality. So a small church would not fit the big ego.

  • Has anyone contacted Nick D on WGN? Maybe he can mention it on his show. I'm not on Facebook or Twitter, I think those are the only way's to get with him.

  • Big Oaks Big Oaks resident since 1979

    I know Nick D is a huge fan of the Patio on Irving & Austin. This should be right up his alley. You can email him thru WGNRADIO.COM. Everybody at the station has their own web page.

  • I emailed Nick D. Told him what I knew and asked him to "investigate and help." :)

  • Could the Portage be declared a National Historic Site because it was one of the first theaters in Chicago to be built specifically for showing films?

  • Cal Portage Park resident

    Just an FYI the information above about the tax status of Chicago Tabernalce is not accurate, that was a different church so there does not seem to be any financial issues as far as taxes go. They seem to be ligit.

    I am not opposed to any church finding a house of worship but why would they want to continue when they see how much opposition this is bringing? Woudn't the "Christian" think to do would be to pull out their offer and look elswhere? Would Jesus kick people out and bring down the plans for economic growth to a neighborhood that so despretatley needs reviving? One wonders if the church is seeking its own needs rather than the needs of the community. I thought churches were supposed to be lights and servants to the community, not pains in the assses to the community?

  • grethomory Resident of Jefferson Park

    @Anne, it wish it could. I was discussing with co-workers here about this and you have no idea how many of them grew up in the area. They would like someone of keeping this theater.

  • The problem with a church buying all this property is that they will be exempt from the property taxes and when the value increases they will more than likely turn around and sell it for an handsome profit.

    From About.com:

    "Churches, however, tend to benefit the most from the various tax exemptions available, in particular because they qualify for many of them automatically, whereas non-religious groups have to go through a more complicated application and approval process. Non-religious groups also have to be more accountable for where their money goes, while churches, in order to avoid possibly excessive entanglements between church and state, do not have to submit financial disclosure statements.

    Tax benefits for religious organizations fall into three general categories: tax-free donations, tax-free land and tax-free commercial enterprises. The first two are much easier to defend and arguments against permitting them are much weaker. The latter, however, often creates problems."

    You can find the entire article here:


  • I'm not an atheist but something seems unholy about this deal. )

  • I'd like to know if any parishoners are residents of Portage Park. While I don't think it imparative that all church members live in the immediate area, but I feel that any church should reflect the community in which it resides. A church should be a part of the community and work with the community. It should not be trying alienate local residents and businesses, not to mention sabbotaging the efforts of local neighborhood groups that have been striving to revitalize Six Corners. Why not build or buy in community that wants or needs you.

  • Inactive user

    They came here from Brooklyn by way of Nebraska and have been in Albany Park for several years 4200 block of Troy.

  • ron Harwood Heights

    @ Jake Do you know them?

  • Inactive user

    No from their website and other sources on the net.

  • Six Corners Association Bringing People Back to Cicero-Irving-Milwaukee

    Reminder: Come to the Save The Portage community meeting 7 p.m., Monday, March 26, to find out exactly what you as an individual can do. Help us save this neighborhood icon! Presented to you by the Six Corners Association, Old Irving Park Association and the Portage Park Neighborhood Association. We will make sure you leave with everything you need to save the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave. For background, www.savetheportage.org

    Thank you one and all!!!

  • Inactive user

    website isn't up

  • Six Corners Association Bringing People Back to Cicero-Irving-Milwaukee

    It was when the post went up. They must have just started an update. Please check back in the morning. Thank you.

  • Dirk Portage Park

    Just tried it. Worked fine.

  • Inactive user

    up now yes

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    CBS local news created a story last night and aired it.

    Here's the video on their website:


  • Barry Kaufman Famous singer & King of the Monsters

    It’s fascinating to see the lack of understanding of the Portage’s significance from superficial news reporters like Mike Parker. As in the Tribune article of March 12, 2012, there is a disdainful tone in discussing the theatre’s programming, without really knowing what that programming is. Parker cites “The Hunger Games” as the type of sophisticated programming you won’t see at the Portage. It’s a completely unecessary “angle” which he chooses to base the story on, meant to put down the type of cinema featured at the theatre, as well as those who would choose to attend it.
    Parker’s angle is meant to prejudice opinion against the Portage Theatre before the story even begins.
    Perhaps parker doesn’t know the Portage has screened a restored 35mm print of King Kong (1933), just a monster movie I know. As well as Written on the Wind (1956), just a silly Douglas Sirk Soap Opera. Upcoming on April 4th they are screening Max Ophal’s riventing “lost” classic Liebelei (1933), just a historic film by a Jewish director in Nazi Germany. Perhaps Parker was alluding to the Universal horror films of the 1930′s being shown on March 31st. I could go on about all the programming there for degenerates and simpletons, would that I had the cinematic taste and frame if reference of one Mike Parker.

  • Thomas Gianni Resident of the 2500 W. block of Pensacola

    I'm assuming the event is at the theater itself? I will be there.

  • OldIrving Anna on a quest for craft brewed "zimne piwo"

    @Tom: Monday's meeting is at the Portage Theater itself, 4050 N. Milwaukee, starting at 7 PM. Six Corners Assn. posted it above, but here it is again:

    Come to the Save The Portage community meeting 7 p.m., Monday, March 26, to find out exactly what you as an individual can do. Sponsored by SCA, OIPA & PPNA.

    For background, www.savetheportage.org

    I'll begin another thread so it's not lost.

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    What is OPA? Sounds like greek cheese, and Roditys to me, and I'm not good with acronyms.

  • OldIrving Anna on a quest for craft brewed "zimne piwo"

    Yeh, and saganaki to you too, oldtimer aka Kenji.

    SCA = Six Corners Association, funded by self taxing business district #28, to fund business promotion at Milw/Irving/Cicero

    PPNA = Portage Park Neighborhood Association, non profit community group encompassing the community area of Portage Park

    OIPA (bring out the flaming cheese) = Old Irving Park Association, non profit community group in the community area of Irving Park, boundaries determined by the 2 farms of its original upstate NY settlers, circa approx. 1860.

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    I'm also not too familiar with things that happen East of the Soo Line, around here. Even East of Cicero Ave. is uncharted waters.

    Is Kostner Ave. in Old Irving Park, East or West of the Soo Line tracks?

  • Inactive user

    Anna, did you recently start running Old Irving together as one word? If so, was it to clarify which word Old modified lol?

  • OldIrving Anna on a quest for craft brewed "zimne piwo"

    Kostner btwn Addison & Montrose, is in OIP. Our western boundary is just east of Marshall's & Payless, the Milwaukee Rd. RR, running parallel to Kilbourn/Kolmar.

    For more than you ever wanted to know: http://www.oldirvingpark.com/History.aspx

    Apologies in advance to Kenji, for violating his one sentence paragraph rule.

    Here's our one square mile neighborhood's history, courtesy of the Irving Park Historical Society. We owe our existence to carpetbagging developers from upstate New York state. FYI, the Gray farmhouse, newly repainted, is still at the corner of Grace & Kostner. Several of the original settlers' homes remain, including the Race house next to the Golden Nugget on Tripp Ave.

    "The chain of events leading to the development of Irving Park began in 1843 when Major Noble purchased a 160-acre tract of land from Christopher L. Ward, upon which Noble established a farm. The boundaries of that farm today would be Montrose to the north, Irving Park to the south, Pulaski to the east and Kostner to the west. Major Noble's house on the east side of Elston just south of Montrose doubled as the Blackthorn Tavern, serving travelers coming to and from the City of Chicago along the North West Plank Road (Elston). After many years of successful farming, Noble sold the farm and retired to McHenry County. Four men from New York - Charles T. Race, John S. Brown, Adelbert E. Brown and John Wheeler - purchased the farm in 1869 for $20,000.

    Shortly thereafter, they purchased an additional 80-acre tract immediately south of the Noble farm from John Gray for $25,000. This parcel, bounded by Irving Park Road on the north, Grace on the south, Pulaski to the east and Kostner to the west, was part of his original 320 acre farm. The intention of the men was to continue farming, but after seeing the success of suburban communities which had recently opened for settlement, they decided to subdivide their land and create an exclusive suburb seven miles from the city."

  • OldIrving Anna on a quest for craft brewed "zimne piwo"

    @Jake--I'm under 100 years old, so I'm happy. This Anna is old, but probably NOT as old as you! And stlll enjoying my "zimne piwo" on my back porch.

  • Inactive user

    I bet you're right.

  • Inactive user

    Any guesses as to what the alderman is looking down at and smiling?

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    His new Chuck Talyors while playing some 3-on-3 at the new rims and nets at Wilson Park?

  • Inactive user

    The hopscotch board he just drew on the sidewalk with chalk.

  • Bob Kastigar 15 Years North Park, bike rider, retired

    Any report/summary on the meeting yesterday, 3/26, on the status of the Portage Theater? I couldn't make it.

  • Barry Kaufman Famous singer & King of the Monsters

    A tremendous turnout, well over 1,000 assembled in great spirits, petitions were signed. Presentors included Alderman Arena, Dennis Wolkowicz (theatre operator who also gave an organ concert for openers!), the Save the Portage Facebook founder (forgot the name sorry) and more.
    Alderman Arena was great and very civil in his welcoming of the Chicago Tabernacle to the community, just not to the Portage.
    There were also some conceptual drawings on display from the
    "other party" who plans to buy the Portage if the Tabernacle's plans fall through which were very encouraging. Go to the Save the Portage Facebook page for instructions regarding further action, or there are links on my site:

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    Nice segue Barry to drive traffic to your blog!

    well played.

  • Also visit savetheportagetheater.org for new updates!

    Thursday night is the next event to attend, at the Copernicus (5216 W Lawrence Ave). It is the Chicago Cultural Plan Town Hall Meeting, and we need voices to oppose the CT proposal. Meeting starts at 6:00 pm.

  • Barry Kaufman Famous singer & King of the Monsters

    Babbette could you clarify what this Town Hall Meeting is? Is it specific to the Portage, or is it a regularly scheduled meeting at which this topic is being discussed?

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside
  • Certainly! This is a meeting that John Arena scheduled with the intent of discussing goals and ideas for arts facilities / events in our area. He started a thread about it here:

    You can read all the details and comments in that thread. Come one, come all...

  • That's not what I heard, @kenji. ;-)

  • The community needs to attend this meeting!!

    But BEWARE - from conversations – it’s not exactly a "town hall" type meeting - it’s more like the city telling you "Here is what we are doing downtown and you'll like it". In other words - they are ignoring possible cultural hotspots and opportunities such as the northwest side that has 8-10 amazing, historic venues that could be revitalized and marketed to become the economic engines and attractors to turn the commercial districts around. THINK The Portage Theater as well as the Patio, LaSalle Bank, the Copernicous, the Jefferson, Gift Theatre Company, Chicago Kids Company, Silent Film Festival etc. etc.

    Wear your SAVE THE PORTAGE shirts, brings signs and be sure to make an effort to talk to the presenters before or after if you can and mention the priceless resources we already have in our community and that the City should recognize and invest in these venues with us! ALSO, it seems you might have to register @ http://mar29-chicagoculturalplan-eorg.eventbrite.com/

  • Hendu Stuck in a condo in Belmont Gardens

    Sorry if this has been asked/answered already, but I didn't see anything. What are the chances that the ZBA would ever vote against the wishes of the Alderman? It did happen with the proposed Childrens' Museum, but that was a different situation with Mayor Daley personally pushing for the move. I know it's not as open-and-shot as an actual zoning change, but it still must be a major stacked deck right? Just curious.

  • OldIrving Anna on a quest for craft brewed "zimne piwo"

    The City Council Zoning Committee, composed of aldermen, is not the ZBA--Zoning Board of Appeals. ZBA is a panel of five people appointed by the Mayor, in this case all former Mayor Daley appointees. Apples & oranges. No aldermanic prerogative.

  • Hendu Stuck in a condo in Belmont Gardens

    Thanks, Anna. Still, even though there's technically no aldermanic prerogative, I was wondering if historically it's common or pretty rare for the ZBA to vote against the wishes of the alderman.

  • kenji Find us here --> http://reddit.com/r/greatNWside

    @hendu, we can see their agenda going back to 2009, but maybe with a little searching you can find the minutes of all of those agendas . Here's the URL:


  • The ZBA is made up of volunteers. They are under the umbrella of the Department of Housing and Economic Development, Bureau of Planning and Zoning. As they are volunteers - they are not employees of the city therefore they have no city of Chicago email, office or direct phone lines. This makes them "independent" on paper. But, the personal agenda of each, obviously, will still be an influence.

    They generally do not “hear” or “research” a case until the day of the hearing. They are not mulling around the office cooler, sort of speak, reading letters and answering email. But, they are certainly reading the local news. The Alderman does not have “access” to them like the traditional zoning process. That is why, showing up at a ZBA hearing (with warning or not) is critical for a community voice.

    The unfortunate part for this subject is that the contract and purchase can still go through with or without ZBA action. The ZBA process will only inform the buyer if this particular group of ZBA volunteers grants them their special use this time around – or – the buyer could choose to wait a few years and reapply at their convenience and time that may be more favorable to their agenda.

  • Bob Kastigar 15 Years North Park, bike rider, retired


    Chicago Tabernacle Church released a statement Thursday afternoon, announcing it had pulled its application with the city Zoning Board of Appeals for a special use to operate as a house of worship at the site, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave.

  • @alderman arena thanks for being steadfast on your position, as it enabled a lot of attention and support. it shows that as a community working together, we are capable of doing great things. time for some new community challenges, but in this case simply put:
    we won, and quite frankly with the great people we have, they didn't have a prayer.

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