“Repairs are inching forward on the long-closed Portage Theater, part of an ambitious, multi-million-dollar plan from its newest owner to revive the iconic venue.
“But owner Manuel Gliksberg said he has invested $1 million and navigated financial and legal difficulties, and he needs support from the city if he’s going to reopen the landmarked theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave. The extensive renovation will cost at least $10 million, he estimated.
“The theater closed in 2018. Gliksberg, an investor who owns a real estate company, bought it later that year. Gliksberg said he wants ‘to make this a forever space for the community,’ but the building needs costly upgrades so it’ll have more bathrooms, be up to code and to be ADA-compliant, among other things.
“Neighbors have long waited for the theater to reopen. Gliksberg, an avid rock music lover, said he wants to inject life into the Six Corners shopping district to spur economic development and reawaken the community anchor. But Gliksberg said there’s only so much he can do with private financing. He said he’s willing to put a significant amount of his own money into repairs, but city funds are also needed for the project to make financial sense.
“Portage Theater closed as a cinema in 2001 after operating almost continuously since its debut in 1920. Gliksberg is the third person to take over the space in the past two decades. Soon after taking over, Gliksberg was told he owed thousands in back taxes from the past three years. Those charges have since been taken care of and paid, according to Gliksberg and Cook County property tax portal.
“In the meantime, Gliksberg said he’s invested about $1 million in fixes to the building, including repairs to the exterior roof and rear façade, city records show. He also has done tuckpointing work on all of the exterior walls of the lobby and auditorium, replaced the roof membrane of the auditorium and put in new gutters and downspouts, he said.
“Hoping to help Gliksberg push forward with more renovations, the Six Corners Chamber of Commerce applied for an Adopt-A-Landmark grant for the theater’s exterior façade last summer. The group sought $242,300 from the city as part of a five-phase revitalization project to fix and replace terra cotta on the nameplate and monumental arch of the theater. Funds were also requested to repair brick issues that have been safety concerns along Milwaukee Avenue.
“The city’s Department of Planning and Development, which oversees the grant program, denied funding in January. City officials said Gliksberg did not yet have a comprehensive exterior and interior rehabilitation plan for making the theater ready for occupancy, and he still owed taxes on the building.
“Andy Pierce, the theater historian and chamber member who helped compile the grant application, said the chamber is on board to help Gliksberg apply for more government funding to complete needed repairs.” (Parrella-Aureli, Block Club Chicago, 3/31/22)
Portage Theater Owner Wants To Bring Venue Back To Life To Revive Six Corners, But He Needs Millions In Funding; Neighbors and local leaders say the historic theater’s revival is a necessary step in bringing back the bustle of Six Corners, Ariel Parrella-Aureli, Block Club Chicago, 3/31/22