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Uptown in the News  

August 20, 2003
…as preservationists decry Rainbo's fate
By Angela Caputo, Lerner Correspondent

Not far from the corner of Clark Street and Lawrence Avenue, the once popular Rainbo roller-skating rink sits vacant, awaiting its fate.

The former rink, 4812-36 N. Clark St., is facing demolition, and the 2-acre site is to be replaced with upscale residential units and commercial storefronts, pending city approval.

Preservationists say they are dismayed with word that the building would be scrapped in the redevelopment plan that was unveiled at a community meeting sponsored in late July by Ald. Helen Shiller (46th). They would like to see at least the ornate façade of the building salvaged.

"In the last few years, we've seen so many historic buildings in Uptown demolished, and we have to draw the line in the sand somewhere," said Uptown Historical Society President John Holden.

In the interest of preserving the 1928 entertainment venue, the local historical society and the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois had hoped the building would be deemed a landmark and therefore protected from demolition, Holden said.

Peter Scales, communications director for the city's Department of Planning and Development, said that, after consideration by the department's landmarks division, the building would not be added to the registry because its structure had been altered too many times.

Ornate terra-cotta tiles adorn the façade of the Rainbo. And five existing street-level openings, large enough for storefront entrances, would be ideal components in the transformation plan to expand the commercial district along Clark Street, said Holden.

"The old landmarks should be a catalyst for redevelopment in areas," he said.

Architectural firm Pappageorge Haymes has taken on the loft project, which is awaiting city approval. Metropolitan Development is the project developer.

Shiller sent the architects back to the drawing board to try to incorporate some of the historic components of the former multi-use entertainment venue into the design.

Architect David Haymes said that after assessing the feasibility of retaining the façade, it looks unlikely it will be possible.

"We made an extra effort to go back and look at it, but it is difficult to incorporate (the existing façade)," said Haymes. "We do have other notions of retaining or building a monument. We want to do something that recognizes what it was."

A final plan is expected to be presented to Shiller in early September, Haymes said.

Part of the increasing affluence that is emerging in Uptown, the major redevelopment plan would bring 131 upscale loft-style condominiums and town houses.

At street level, a string of storefronts would adorn the Clark Street complex, bringing additional retail spaces to the area and opening up the streetscape, according to the architect.

Neighboring business owner Maureen Barrett, of A Dog's Life, 4810 N. Clark St., which abuts the vacant roller rink, said she is excited to see the project moving forward.

Connecting the Uptown stretch of Clark Street with the bustling Andersonville and Wrigleyville neighborhoods is a natural extension, she said.

"Clark Street is and always has been a prime commercial district… I want to see the flow to keep going," Barrett said.

Holden says he agrees that commercial development is a step in the right direction, but would like to see a reflection of the past in the future progress of the neighborhood.

"Tearing down this building is nothing short of scandalous," he said. "This is the only building of significant historical value on this stretch of Clark Street."

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