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Church withdraws attempt to buy historic Portage Theater

The Portage Theater 4050 N. Milwaukee |  Phocourtesy Brian Lambrecht

The Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee | Photo courtesy of Brian Lambrecht

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Updated: August 21, 2012 6:34AM

Bowing to opposition from Northwest Side neighbors and city officials, a church said Thursday it has withdrawn its attempt to buy the 92-year-old Portage Theater at 4050 N. Milwaukee.

The Chicago Tabernacle also said it has withdrawn its attempt to rezone the property so it could adapt it for its congregation. Neighborhood residents fought the plan, arguing that the theater was a cultural asset they didn’t want to lose.

They also said the theater is an important part of the Six Corners shopping district and that adding a church to the mix would hurt surrounding businesses.

City officials dealt the church a blow by putting the theater on track toward landmark status. The decision would have barred the church from making extensive alterations.

In a brief statement, the tabernacle, 4201 N. Troy, said it is in “final negotiations” for another site.

“This has been a long and arduous process and we are glad to see progress in the search for a new home for our church family that better suits our needs,” the statement said.

A church spokesman declined further comment. One alternative property it has been shown is a building at 3231 N. Cicero, a long-closed movie theater now used as the Golden Tiara bingo hall.

Ald. John Arena, whose 45th Ward includes the Portage, said the church’s decision is welcome news.

“We were never opposed to the church. We were opposed to that use in that place,” he said.

“There were very documented economic development reasons for that decision.”

The Portage books classic and historic movies and hosts various events. Arena said the theater’s managers, which rent the space, put together a $2.5 million offer for the property that matched the church’s.

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