Proposal on the Table to Replace Old Theater With Apartments in Northern Liberties

On the northeast corner of 6th & Poplar in Northern Liberties stands a warehouse with a history that will likely come as a surprise. In 1916, this building was constructed as the Poplar Theatre and seated over 850 people at its height. According to Cinema Treasures, it was converted into a printer’s warehouse in the 1960s, which eliminated most of the details that made it look like the theater it once was. It’s here that developers recently presented plans to demolish the old structure to make way for contemporary residential units.

View in 1962. Note the street had not yet been widened.
Building would go

Developers from Masada Builders are looking to demolish the building at 517-33 Poplar St. and construct a 40-unit apartment building with 1:1 off-street parking. At a late-October NLNA meeting, they received a positive initial response from neighbors, according to Larry Freedman, NLNA zoning chair. According to Freedman, early designs had “character” and “lots of interesting angles and dimensions.” In 2012, the interior of the theater was renovated for performing arts, according to Hidden City.

“The question came up,” said Freedman, about whether the old ruddy brick warehouse was salvageable for renovations.” “[…] We could say don’t tear the building down, but unless it has a certification of some sort, or if there’s a total neighborhood disapproval … they can tear the building down.”

View of the old building with new development on either side

Across the street, eight new ultra-luxe town homes are almost done, as we mentioned last week. A block to the east, we’ve seen considerable development throughout the past year. 21 new homes, designed by JKR Partners, are rising at the site of a demolished warehouse. Just south of that, four new homes are being built, and 22 new homes are rising just to the north. Unfortunately, it seems that several projects of late are coming at the expense of old buildings- but only a few are buildings that we truly regret seeing torn down.

This one, for example.

So we’ll sit and wait to see what the builders, who also constructed the $1M-plus Mode7 townhomes in Logan Square, come back with after their initial meeting with NLNA. With architecture work from Atrium Design, we know it will be one of the more interesting new buildings in the neighborhood.

–Lou Mancinelli