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Uptown in the News  

January 25, 2006
Uptown Broadway returns to its former glory
Historic façade to be restored
By Angela Caputo

There’s probably no truth to a tale that the ornate Uptown Broadway building once had a very famous, er, infamous owner—Al Capone, local historians say. But that hasn’t stopped neighbors from calling it “the Capone building’ over the years, fueling stories about the entertainment district’s earlier days when it was rumored to be a playground for gangsters.

After years of being worn down by the weather with little—if any—restoration in recent years, the first phase of a $2.2 million gut and façade rehab of the 1926 building, 4703 N. Broadway, is anticipated to begin in early February. The revival should bring the building’s stature back to its heyday, much like some of its neighbors that also have undergone extensive renovations.

Thaddeus Wong, co-founder of the multi-billion dollar real estate firm @properties, bought the building for $1.4 million, according to city Planning Department documents. With the help of a $1.1 million subsidy, which was committed from taxes generated through the Lawrence/Broadway TIF district, Wong plans to gut the building and to restore the historic façade that helped put the building on the National Register of Historic Places.

By rehabbing the interior of the building, early plans indicate that Wong plans to develop two top floors of office space and equip the first floor and basement for a nightclub or restaurant. Parts of the building have long been vacant, but the handful of remaining tenants have moved out over the past year to make way for the rehab.

In lieu of booming construction on the North Side, preservationists like Uptown Historical Society President John Holden have waged public campaigns to save some of the neighborhood’s most historically significant buildings. But without landmark status on many, preservationists have often been forced to sit back and watch as pieces of Uptown history, like the old Rainbo Roller Rink on Clark Street or the Beacon House in Sheridan Park, have been demolished.

Even without landmark protection, Holden said it is refreshing to see this “gem of a building” not only spared, but also revived.

“(The Uptown Broadway building) is one of the most ornate and unique buildings, not just in Uptown, but in the city of Chicago” Holden said.

Urns that line the roof of the 19,000 square-foot building and other missing historic elements will be replaced or restored as will original yellow and gray terracotta tiles that make the façade a knockout. Cubed glass bricks that line the windows will also be punched out and replaced by sheet glass in the project, according to the developer’s plan.

From first glance, the restoration appears to be going as preservationists had hoped, Holden said. “The fact that they’re getting millions in subsidies, we hope they’ll go the extra mile (in the restoration),” he added

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