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Who Is The New Owner Of The Portage Theater? [UPDATE]

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 11, 2012 1:43PM

Chicagoist/Chuck Sudo

The ownership drama at the Portage Theater has been settled, but the uncertainty of the classic Northwest side movie house's future remains uncertain.

The Tribune reports that the Portage has a new owner and that the current team that manages the theater was informed of the purchase Sept. 1. But the building was sold to a land trust, meaning the actual owner is still unknown at this time.

Signs point to Congress Theater owner Eddie Carranza as the new owner. Carranza confirmed he placed a bid on the Portage to the Tribune last week. (Chicagoist first reported on Carranza’s interest in the Portage in July). The Tribune noted that Carranza is listed as the manager of the LLC that now runs the building. Given the Congress’s history with underage drinking, crowd control, sound issues and security, patrons of the Portage are rightly concerned about having the theater under Carranza’s ownership.

David Dziedzic, who is part of the Portage management team that worked to put together an informal bid on the theater after Chicago Tabernacle pulled its offer, said he spoke with Carranza last month. Carranza put forth a plan that would transform the Portage into a music venue and rip out the seats, but would still be able to screen films.

Dziedzic and his partners have a lease on the Portage until 2015 but admitted to the Tribune they owe some back rent, which could provide an opening for the building’s owner to evict them. Attorney Thomas R. Raines, who represents the new owners, said the new owner will be a “bona fide, genuine neighbor.”

“They don’t know what the plans are (yet), they just closed (on the sale) on Friday. They are reviewing all the leases and all their options to try to figure out the best way to maximize the value of this property — what the highest and best use is, and how that would fit best with the community. They’re going to meet with community groups, they’re going to meet with the alderman, they’re going to meet with all the current tenants.”

Carranza announced a partnership with digital marketing agency Doejo to redevelop and rehabilitate the Congress in July.

Update: It's Carranza. Here's an announcement from Everyblock Chicago on Sept. 9

"Hi Everyone, on behalf of Mr. Eddie Carranza and his leadership team, we would like to express how impressed we are with the level of passion this community displays for the Portage Theater. While there are diverse opinions, it is clear that all of us agree this theater is special and there is opportunity to do great things here. We look forward to adding significant investment in Six Corners and in the larger Portage Park Community and would like to relay some important facts:

"Community Center: We plan to invest in the venue as well as the surrounding storefronts, believing it will help us secure the customer draw and improve positive foot traffic on Six Corners. Ideas for this include: a bakery, cafe or breakfast diner, an upscale casual restaurant, etc.

"Movies: We are BIG fans of movie and film programming. To that end, we see an opportunity for partnering and cross-marketing similar film programming with Congress Theater. We believe our industry contacts can add significant value and take this programming a step further.

"Venue: There are no immediate formal plans for our own entertainment programming as the current tenant maintains the venue's event calendar. However, we will seek opportunities and will put forth ideas to further add diverse entertainment programming and live music events.

"Development: We ARE looking at ways we can modernize the entire property, which includes upgrading the venue space design with alternative entertainment programming, examining and prioritizing the upgrades needed to repair the building's overall health.

"The Portage Theater is a keystone element to revitalizing Six Corners and we believe that we are a catalyst to begin the changes needed here. As this project develops, we look forward to meeting the community and also hope to see other new businesses, artists and entrepreneurs follow our lead."