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Congress Theater Announces Plans For Extensive Renovations

By Samantha Abernethy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 25, 2012 1:30PM

The Congress Theater has announced plans for an extensive renovation of the Logan Square music venue. According to a press release, the space will become an "entertainment complex" with 10 to 18 street-level spaces including "a farmers market-inspired grocer, a cafe called Flat White and a forthcoming gastropub restaurant, all independently owned and operated." To make it happen, the Congress is partnering with Doejo, a "startup accelerator" agency.

“I don’t want this building to be a cookie-cutter franchise-type building," owner Eddie Carranza said in a release. "I want to give it its own character, this isn’t a strip mall, this is Logan Square. We want to grow that indie spirit not break it up with a bunch of franchises. I’d like the Congress to be a great community center in Logan Square of diverse, independent boutique businesses—we’re looking for entrepreneurs with great ideas to invest in and grow with our space.”

Carranza has been criticized for not investing in the Congress, allowing the historic building to deteriorate. Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) filed a public nuisance complaint against the Congress earlier this year to force the venue to deal with noise and security complaints from neighbors. Plus, concertgoers often complain of sound quality issues inside the venue. Carranza countered by saying, "If people didn’t want to go there, we wouldn’t be selling out."

Moreno spokesperson Matthew Bailey told Chicagoist that this latest announcement is a sign that the Congress is addressing those public nuisance complaints and heading in the right direction. "We never wanted to punish them or hurt them in any way because we value the independent music venue," said Bailey. "They're getting ahead and starting improvements themselves. It will be shown that they're working on improving it."

News also came out that Carranza may have a bid in to buy the Portage Theater, a move that has some worried the theater could be plagued by the same issues the Congress has had. The owners of the Congress is just one group of many that has bids in for the Portage.