21st April 2021

Chicago: Wrigleyville Is Booming, So What About The Uptown District?

Wrigleyville is booming

Chris Jones from the Chicago Tribune wrote in February the article; As Wrigleyville booms, Uptown’s district is left in the dust. In this article, Chris talks about the increasing amount of concerts being held at Wrigley Field and the consequential development of hotels, bars, restaurants and a new plaza leading into the development of a new entertainment district. A little further north sits the Uptown District, historically the area’s zone for entertainment with a history dating back to 1917 when the Riveria Theatre was built and a collection of other historic venues. What is to happen to this area of Chicago? Can the Uptown preservationists compete against the big business of Wrigleyville? New contributor to TheatreArtLife, Ralph Stalter comments:

I firmly believe that another approach to funding for either new performing arts centers, or historic preservation of existing theatre venues, can be the sharing/taxing of a percentage of the revenues generated from these mega concerts where “music artists derive higher and higher proportions of their income from touring and thus need a lot of seats”. (Chris Jones, February 10, 2017)

Wrigleyville is boomingConsider the situation at Wrigley Field… and the impact of all this on the fate of Uptown and its historic theater, constructed in 1925. The two issues are not unrelated. The Uptown Theatre is only a bit north of Wrigley Field, but it faces completely different realities.

The Uptown is also part of an entertainment district.

An entertainment district with actual history and venues like the Riviera Theatre (1917) and Aragon Ballroom (1926). But not an entertainment district getting anything like the investment pouring into Wrigleyville.

Throughout the past two decades, the Uptown preservationists, dedicated souls committed to the long game, have argued the theater needs to be at the core of a new entertainment district involving retail, restaurants and the other venues. That is a sound argument.

But those preservationists did not anticipate precisely such a district arriving in and around the ballpark a mile or two to the south. It is hard to imagine duplicative efforts occurring anytime soon in Uptown, where the people would have to pay. At least in part.

Are there any entertainment districts in your areas under threat from big business? We’d love to hear from you. Visit our CONTRIBUTE page to submit an article.


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Ralph Stalter, Jr., is a “Cultural Provocateur” with more than 40 years of Nonprofit Leadership, Public Speaking & Community Service. His strength is in collaborating with leaders of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations – whether they serve on the Board, executive management group, or the creative team – to establish trust and consensus building, collaborative work habits, use of innovation and creativity to solve problems, the capacity to imagine change and the willingness to work for it. Organic chemistry and calculus essentially dashed his pursuit of an early medical career. So, his first occupation was in the nonprofit professional theatre. He has served as an independent consultant, or in executive leadership roles, with professional arts organizations in the New England, Middle Atlantic and Southern regions of America, including: • Three members of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) -- the largest professional theatre association of its kind in the United States, which issues more Equity contracts to actors than Broadway and commercial tours combined. • Two landmark theaters on the National Register of Historic Places – coordinating their Capital Campaigns and interior renovations which increased seating capacity, earned income potential, and audience comfort. • One of three beta-testing projects for the National Computer Project for the Performing Arts (funded by the Ford Foundation) -- introducing technology for improved ticketing and fundraising operations to the arts. Since moving to Las Vegas, NV, in 2010, Ralph has continued to provide consulting services to WIMA (Women in Music and Arts); the Clark County Theatre Center; the Advisory Board of the Huntridge Foundation (working to preserve the architectural integrity, history and culture of the landmark Huntridge Theatre); The Philantrepreneur Foundation; and EAT MORE ART! VEGAS (dedicated to telling the public about performing arts events in the Las Vegas metropolitan area). Ralph also relishes his contributions to the advancement of young people and teachers. He is most proud of being one of more than 400 volunteers nationwide who dedicate their time to mentor students from low-income families and prepare them for college success. His service helps Minds Matter achieve its mission each year, making the volunteer to paid staff ratio approximately 275 to 1. Using conservative figures, the value of that volunteered time is near $2,000,000! Ralph, a native of Pittsburgh, PA, holds a BA in Speech & Communications from Duquesne University, and an MFA in Acting from Boston University. He has also completed post-graduate work in Arts Administration at Columbia University. He and his wife, Patti Booth, currently reside in Las Vegas, NV, and enjoy tennis, golf, travel, swimming, hiking, kayaking, choral singing, cooking, and family genealogy.

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