If you’re a Logan Square resident saddened by the lack of screaming, brawling crowds in front of the Congress Theater, the time to rejoice is now. The Congress is making a comeback.
Saturday, 1st Ward Alderman Proco Joe Moreno hosted an open house tour of the historic venue, closed since April 2013 and in desperate need of repair, to show off plans for just that very thing: an extensive renovation. The 4,500-seat (‘seat’ being a relative term; many of the theater’s seats were yanked out long ago to allow more people into the electronic dance music shows) will be rehabbed to include not only an updated concert hall, but also street-level commercial spaces, and residential apartments.
Among modest dining tables in the grand lobby on which to nosh on provided sandwiches and snacks, the public was invited to walk through the old Congress. While dancing on stage was discouraged — yellow construction tape sealed off some areas of the theater, which was “mostly” heeded by dozens of curious urban explorers who showed up, all had the opportunity to peruse the main stairway, second-floor balcony, and well-aged foyer, complete with intact-though-ragged ticket booths. And it was clear to see this was at one time in its history, and wonderful place to see a show. But it needs a lot of work.
From the small hole in the space-ship-like circular light over the auditorium, past the dirty I’m-not-sitting-in-that-with-my-nice-pants chairs in the balcony, to the complete lack of seats on the main floor, it’s easy to see how the project could reach its estimated $50-million dollar cost. But with the proper care from investor Michael Moyer, also known for his work on the Cadillac Palace Theater in Chicago’s Loop, the Congress Theater can once again be a gem in a Logan Square neighborhood which continues to grow.