The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The sad history of the Uptown Theater

Chicago's largest auditorium north of the Loop needs saving soon, or it might be lost forever:

At the intersection of Lawrence, Racine and Broadway in Uptown, the massive, once-grand Uptown Theatre, a shuttered movie palace that has awaited restoration for nearly 40 years, is slowly deteriorating. Its reopening—an expensive proposition that would require public and private funds—is key to the neighborhood's vitality and could make it a premier destination for live entertainment.

Preservationists say that because of its decrepitude, something needs to happen fast to save the theater from permanent ruin. "If this isn't resolved soon, this building will continue to deteriorate," says Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago.

A reopened Uptown would, at 4,500 seats, have the largest theater capacity north of downtown (the Auditorium in the Loop has nearly 4,000). Mark Kelly, commissioner of the city's Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, shares Emanuel's vision that the Uptown would solidify the intersection of Lawrence, Racine and Broadway as a destination for live entertainment. "What would be most desirable is we get a mix of these awesome performance venues at a very high level to accommodate a lot of people," Kelly says. "Then it's a real entertainment district."

The neglect dates to the 1970s, when the Uptown was used primarily for closed-circuit boxing matches and rock concerts by acts including the Grateful Dead and Bruce Springsteen. Accelerating its demise was co-owner Lou Wolf, a notorious Chicago slumlord and felon who purchased the theater in 1980 and shuttered it the following year. Unoccupied and uncared for for more than three decades, the building suffered water damage after the heat was turned off. In 2014, 6 inches of ice covered the grand stairway and 4 feet of water rose in the basement. Broken windows, animal infestation, vandalism and plaster-killing summer humidity followed, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid property taxes.

Fortunately, the city designated a landmark district in 2016 that includes the Uptown, but that only means it can't be demolished. But it still needs maintenance, desperately. I hope someone steps up. I'm looking at you, Rahmbo.

Friday afternoon reading list

The following appeared in my inbox while I was in the air. I'll read them later:

I'll probably read them after my body wakes me up at 6am local time tomorrow. The westbound time change is so much easier than eastbound, but it's still hard to sleep in.

Missed anniversary

I was thinking back to a somewhat strange question: where in the world have I experienced all 12 months of the year? I mean, I think you have to do that in order to say you really know a place.

Before I get to that, let me explain the post's title. The second time I ever set foot in New York was 30 years ago Monday, on 4 December 1987. (The first time was 23 July 1984.)

New York is also the second place in the world, after Chicago, where I experienced all 12 months of the year. I crossed that finish line on 1 April 1989, during my first year at university.

The other places (and dates) are Raleigh, N.C. (1 May 2010), London (1 September 2013), Los Angeles (1 October 2014), and San Francisco (29 October 2015).

L.A. really surprised me. Half my family lived there for 30 years, but between school, work, and dumb luck, it took over 40 years from my first visit there (19 April 1974) until I finally, finally experienced an October day there. And that was a work trip—I didn't even intend to do it.

The other odd bit is that the entirety of the time I spent in North Carolina is documented in this blog.

I think this post will interest about six people, but since one of them is me, and the rest of my brain is working on some pretty slippery user stories for work, up it goes.

Illinois electric utility adds power for the Cloud

The Cloud—known to us in the industry as "someone else's computers"—takes a lot of power to run. Which is why our local electric utility, ComEd, is beefing up their service to the O'Hare area:

Last month, it broke ground to expand its substation in northwest suburban Itasca to increase its output by about 180 megawatts by the end of 2019. Large data centers with multiple users often consume about 24 megawatts. For scale, 1 megawatt is enough to supply as many as 285 homes.

ComEd also has acquired land for a new substation to serve the proposed 1 million-square-foot Busse Farm technology park in Elk Grove Village that will include a data center component. The last time ComEd built a substation was in 2015 in Romeoville, to serve nearby warehouses. In the past year, Elk Grove Village issued permits for four data center projects totaling 600,000 square feet and $175 million in construction. If built, it's a 40 percent increase in total data center capacity in the village.

Insiders say Apple, Google, Microsoft and Oracle have taken on more capacity at data centers in metro Chicago in the past year or so.

One deal that got plenty of tongues wagging was from DuPont Fabros Technology, which started work earlier this year on a 305,000-square-foot data center in Elk Grove Village. DuPont, which recently was acquired by Digital Realty Trust, pre-leased half of it, or about 14 megawatts, to a single customer, believed to be Apple.

One of the oldest cloud data centers, Microsoft's North Central Azure DC, is about three kilometers south of the airport here. Notice the substation just across the tollway to the west.

Busy weekend

Lots of stuff going on, so I haven't written a lot this past week. So I just have some links this morning in lieu of anything more interesting:

I thought I had more. Hm.

First professional hockey game

On Wednesday, I did something for the first time:

That was the Rangers at the Blackhawks. And this happened:

Hearing "Chelsea Dagger" seven times (including three thanks to Artem Anisimov's first career hat trick) was a good introduction to the sport.

Right now, it looks like I'll see the Blackhawks/Maple Leafs game on January 24th, complete with "O Canada" (and I hope more of the Fratellis).

Athletic activity heat maps

Via CityLab's new newsletter "MapLab:"

Vision Zero” supporters are tapping into big data in other ways. This month, Strava, the app that tracks users’ athletic activity, re-released a “Global Heatmap” tracing more than 1 billion jogs, hikes, and bike rides by millions of members around the world. (The running scene in London, in striking orange and black, is shown above.) Already, some public agencies are making use of the data to support and protect all that sweat. CityLab’s Benjamin Schneider recently wrote about how Utah’s DOT is changing road and intersection designs to be safer for cyclists, based on the map. “It’s replacing anecdote with data,” one local planner told him.

Here's the run map for Chicago's north lakefront:

This is total Daily Parker bait. But I actually have work to do today.

Busy day link round-up

I have some free time coming up next Friday, but until then, there's a lot going on. So I have very little time to read, let alone write about, these stories from this week:

Back to project planning...

Starship Chicago

Via CityLab, a new short video argues that the Thompson Center needs to be preserved:

Says CityLab:

Few of the film’s interviewees seem to find the Thompson Center beautiful—noted Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman calls it “a piece of shit.” But he, like the rest of the talking heads in the film, believes the building should be preserved for its architectural significance. It was a boundary-breaking structure when it was completed in 1985, becoming one of the first curved buildings in downtown Chicago’s hard, rectilinear cityscape, and catapulting its architect, Helmut Jahn, to stardom.

The Thompson Center captured Chicago’s imagination, if not its heart. The building’s rounded, all-glass exterior, as well as its cylindrical interior atrium, made it look like an alien visitor, earning it the “starship” moniker. The design was actually a riff on the classic American statehouse, with glass walls representing government transparency and the large skylight capping the atrium meant to evoke a dome. The busy interior of the atrium is painted in red (or salmon), white, and blue, perhaps the structure’s most jarring design element. 

Here's a view of it from just after it opened in 1986: