Theater Gone, Apartment Building Underway at 6th & Poplar

If you visit the intersection of 6th & Poplar, a few things should immediately attract your attention. The first is the dramatic contrast between the northern and southern side of the block. On the south side are a collection of homes that are part of the Liberty Place Town Homes development, built as affordable units in the 1960s with the architectural stylings of the Northeast. On the northwest corner is a row of homes built within the last few years which sold at decidedly unaffordable prices between $500K and $800K. And on the northeast corner you’ll see a construction site. We’ve actually covered this property a few times before, most recently last summer. A reminder, this property was originally home to the Poplar Theatre which has only barely resembled a movie house for the last several decades.

In the past

The theatre operated on and off in the decades following its construction in 1916. By the early 1960s, Pearl Pressman Liberty Printers converted the building into a bindery and warehouse, though the building maintained some of its interior theatre details. Those original details were lost in 2012, when new owners renovated the building in an effort to find a commercial tenant. Instead, they ended up selling the property to Masada Custom Builders. Those developers came forward in 2013 with a plan to demolish the old theater and build a 40 unit building in its place. When we last checked in on the property, the old theatre was still standing but demolition appeared to be on the horizon- and as we mentioned, the building is now gone and construction has finally begun after years of delays.

Current view
View from the other side into the site
Project rendering

Though the plan has seemingly experienced some tweaks, it appears to be quite similar to the plans initially proposed back in 2013. The building, designed by Harman Deutsch, will rise five stories and contain 40 apartments and a small retail space at the corner of Randolph & Poplar. The vast majority of the first floor of the building will be parking, with six surface parking spots and 29 mechanical parking spaces which seem like a logistical challenge but will likely employ some kind of technology to allow people to fetch their cars without the assistance of an attendant. Hey, people can buy cars from vending machines now, so this seems like an easy enough lift.

Ordinarily, we’d lament the fact that parking will take up so much of the first floor of a building like this, space that could otherwise accommodate retail space. In this case, we’re totally comfortable with the choice, as retail doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense at 6th & Poplar anyway, with a few different commercial corridors within pretty close proximity. An alternative to an apartment building could have been a dozen or so town homes, so if the parking component convinced the neighborhood to accept the additional density here, then we’re in full support.