At its October 1, 2015, meeting, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks voted a “preliminary landmark recommendation” for the Uptown Square District. A PDF of the Commission’s preliminary summary of information is available at the bottom of this page.
The purpose of the designation is to recognize the history and architecture of Uptown and protect it from demolition and incompatible renovations. It will also make incentives available to foster private investment and rehabilitation, including the historic theaters that have long defined Uptown as one of Chicago’s most vibrant entertainment districts outside of downtown. Only the exterior features of buildings within the proposed district would be protected under the proposed designation.
Landmark district status can enhance an area’s prestige and property values while bringing stability and predictability for future private investment. Landmark properties are only subject to the designation when owners initiate projects requiring building permits, which are evaluated to determine the impact on any significant historical and architectural features. For buildings in the Uptown Square District, the significant features would be identified as exterior elevations, including rooflines, visible from public rights-of-way.
During the first two decades of the 20th century, real estate development transformed the intersection of Lawrence and Broadway from a rural crossroads to one of the region’s most vibrant entertainment, business, and shopping districts. “Jazz Age” musicians and artists performed at numerous theaters and nightclubs, while luxury hotels and retail development further defined the area’s distinctive character. Many Uptown structures built during the 1920s involved a variety of “fantasy” architectural styles, including Art Deco, Venetian Gothic Revival and Spanish Baroque Revival. Today, Uptown Square is one of the city’s finest surviving examples of an early 20th century neighborhood commercial and entertainment district, one rivaling the size of the downtowns of many smaller cities.