A few months back, the Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave., redefined itself as a ‘Community Center’ in its website tagline.
Indeed, the Logan Square space, spanning nearly one full city block, is more than our city’s last surviving independently owned historic landmark music venue.
In addition to the 46 studio apartments on the complex, there’s a maximum of 18 possible commercial retail spaces surrounding the theater. And owner Eddie Carranza– who just announced a partnership with Phil Tadros (pictured), founder of start-up accelerator firm, Doejo– is putting out the call for talented entrepreneurs to fill them.
“We’re looking for entrepreneurs with great ideas to invest in and grow with our space,” Carranza told The Pipeline. He added that he doesn’t want the landmark building to be home to cookie-cutter franchise-type operations that can be found on every other block or in strip malls.
High on Carranza’s radar are diverse, independent boutique businesses that want to be part of what he and Tadros describe as a “bold renovation and reconceptualization” that will mark a new era for the theater, which was originally built in 1925 and boasts a classical revival and Italian renaissance architectural style with terra-cotta detailing.
The renovation project is in line with 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno’s vision for attracting new businesses on Milwaukee Avenue, creating an arts and entertainment district with the anchor venue being the Congress Theater.
According to a press release issued by Doejo this afternoon, since taking ownership of the theater in 2005, Carranza and his team have been catching up on decades of mechanical and electrical neglect in the theater, retail spaces, and apartments. Doejo has been retained to help project manage the theater’s transformation, particularly its cosmetic and business phase, as well as strategy and online development.
Though the alderman, pictured, and Carranza started the year on a rough note, with the venue being placed into the Deleterious Impact Public Nuisance process at the end of February, along with what many saw as an overreaction by the alderman to a fight that broke out during a Meek Mill/Chief Keef hip hop show in April, Carranza shared that he’s working hard to make improvements to the theater and strengthen relationships with neighbors, the alderman, and the city’s dept. of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BAPC) (For a dispatch from the venue’s second hearing at city hall, click here).
Of Tadros, Carranza cited that “Phil [Tadros] has talent to turn old spaces into nice, hip spaces. He has that vision to bring out their natural look. Exposed brick, metals, beams and marbles. Old is cool so long if it’s done right, keeping the character of the building.”
While some of the up to 18 future spaces are accounted for, and include a farmers market-inspired grocer, a cafe called Flat White and a forthcoming gastropub restaurant, all independently owned and operated, Carranza says there’s plenty of space for more entrepreneurs to join the complex.
In keeping with the Congress Theater’s spirit and tradition of supporting independent artists and promoters, Carranza and Tadros are looking to build partnerships and help incubate small businesses to grow in the Congress’s retail spaces. The Congress will also be seeking artists to display work in the lobby gallery and forthcoming business spaces.
Eventually, once the retail spaces are booming, phase two of the Congress renovations will include transforming the 46 connected apartments into an independently owned boutique hotel with the concierge desk in the lobby of the theater. According to Carranza, the hotel will open into the theater space while being interconnected with the market grocer and cafe.
Intrigued? Inspired? Contact Carranza at email@example.com or 773-276-1235 with your input and ideas. Track The Congress’ progress at their new web site. For information on Doejo, visit its website.
Below is information provided in a press release issued by Doejo this afternoon (July 23rd)
About the Congress:
The space, originally built in 1925 by Fridstein & Co, was designated as a Chicago Landmark in 2002. This bold renovation and reconceptualization will mark a new era for the building which boasts classical revival and Italian renaissance architectural style with terracotta detailing. While being known for accommodating independent bands and producers, providing light and sound equipment, the Congress also hosts the Logan Square Indoor Farmers Market (and has for the last three winters) as well as Dragon Gate USA professional wrestling shows, among other events.
About Doejo and Phil Tadros:
Doejo is a full service digital agency and startup accelerator headquartered in Chicago. The award winning agency provides branding, art direction, web design & development, startup incubation, creative marketing, social media strategy, commercial video production, and commercial storefront development services to a wide array of clients, from bootstrapped startups to Fortune 500 companies. Serial entrepreneur and Doejo CEO Phil Tadros has built, owned and operated many businesses throughout Chicago such as coffee shops Dollop, Noble Tree, Kickstand, the three cafes at Columbia College Chicago and the cafe at State Farm Next Door. His newest venture, Bow Truss Coffee Roasters just opened in Lakeview.