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Uptown in the News  

August 17, 2005
Uptown neighbors clash with noisy nightclub
Thriving entertainment district causes growing pains
By (Angela Caputo)

When Roberta Foley sealed the deal on her Uptown condo last fall, she was excited about buying into a neighborhood that was on the upswing.

Like the rest of the block, new shops were slated to move into the ground floor of her 16-unit condo building. In the spirit of reviving Uptown's entertainment district, neighbors were aware that a late-night lounge would be among the businesses soon to open below.

What Foley and some fellow neighbors didn't anticipate was that the development that attracted them to the revived district near Lawrence and Broadway would become such a headache.

Now they are grappling with how to co-exist with the nightlife that is booming literally. With a spate of high-end housing development taking place on nearby blocks, community leaders anticipate the issue will become even more heated as new nightlife sprouts up around the thriving Green Mill lounge and Aragon and Rivera Theaters.

With talk of reviving the Uptown Theater, along with other theater groups now considering a move, the intersection is projected to only get busier, and louder with time, they add.

After working to diffuse a similar conflict between homeowners and operators of the Circuit Nightclub in Lakeview, Ald. Helen Shiller's (46th) staffer Maggie Marystone said, "Our main goal is to make sure people know what they're getting into before they move."

Knowing that entertainment venues have the right to operate under their licenses, Marystone said, residents have to decide upfront if they can handle living and sleeping in the midst of nightlife.

But neighbors living above the Kinetic Playground, 1113 W. Lawrence Ave., across from the Aragon Theater, say they are getting more noise than they bargained for.

Thumping bass from the jukebox below swallows the sound from their television sets some nights. Dishes rattle in the cabinets. And there's only one word to describe the karaoke night that goes until 4 am - brutal. <-p> It's all night long,j" Foley said. Especially on nights when large late-night crowds spill over from the Aragon into the club, she said. After less than a year, Foley already has her two-bedroom condo back on the market.

Not everyone on the second floor of the building is ready to pack up thought. Some are pointing fingers at the building's developer who they want to hold to a pledge to sound-proof the building.

Developer Jim Gouskos, who sold the condos and owns the lounge space below said he did his part. Roughly $250,000 was invested in soundproofing the venue to avoid noise problems, he said. "Everything was done as it was supposed to be."

Gouskos said living above a club comes down to a " personal tolerance. What can you deal with, what can you sleep with."

Condo owners in the 1107 W. Lawrence building signed a rider when they closed on their properties acknowledging that they were aware a club would be opening below. "There were no secrets," Gouskos said. "Everything was put on the table," he added.

Craig Wadlington, who lives down the hall from Foley said, "I knew shat I was getting into when I moved here."

But he and others say they never imagined that they would feel like they were sleeping on top of high decibel speakers.

And when they recently found out that the club's owner and operator, Werner Ruehle, is applying for a license to schedule live bands, it was a blow but they set out to challenge it.

Residents need 51 percent of registered voters living within 250 feet of the Kinetic Playground to call a public hearing on the license application. After finding, however, that a majority of the registered voters- based on a list provided by the city's Revenue Department - no longer live on nearby blocks, that goal looks unattainable.

Within eyeshot, one multi-unit building is empty, undergoing a gut rehab. Another is filled with a transient tenant population, where more than half of the residents registered to vote have moved out since the list was last updated.

And condo owners, like Foley who is still registered at her former Lincoln Park address, realized that they couldn't even sign the petition.

Without the signatures, the petition won't carry any weight, said Revenue Department spokeswoman Efrat Dallal. "We've seen some cases where people will object but they don't have enough signatures so the license ends up getting issued."

The next best option, she said, is to get a community dialogue going to problem solve or take the issue straight to the Mayor's License Commission, which approved liquor licenses.

"It really doesn't seem fair, " Wadlington said.

But fair or not, community leaders say that the entertainment district is only projected to grow in coming years. And neighbors need to decide if they are on board or not.

"Things are not going to get any less active here," said Joyce Dugan, executive director of the non-profit Uptown Community Development Corporation. "Either you want to live with it or you don't ...People moving in have to make a conscious choice."

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