Okay, Chicago architecture fans, it's time for a quiz! The question:
Which of the following is most likely to keep a building from being demolished?
A) Lavish, beautiful terra cotta ornament and decorative brick patterns
B) A series of occupied storefronts bringing in rental income
C) A location on a major thoroughfare, ensuring those businesses will continue to thrive
D) Easy access to a major public transportation service like the Brown Line L
E) A total lack of any obvious structural or facade problems
F) All of the above
Picked your answer? Good. If you answered "G), none of the above", congratulations! You truly know how Chicago works!
Meet the former Metro Theatre building, 3308 W. Lawrence Avenue:
Built in 1925 as the Terminal Theatre, it's integral to the wonderful commercial row facing the Brown Line terminus station across Lawrence.... though it won't be for much longer.
The theater closed long ago, its lobby converted to retail space. Those businesses seem to have been doing quite well, judging from the remnants they left behind. Every storefront was occupied -- the upstairs too. In 2006, the auditorium suffered a collapse and was demolished. The commercial portion of the building, which wrapped around it, appears to have soldiered on regardless.
Nevertheless, the siren call of money-grabbing condos was apparently too much, and the beautiful building is being destroyed, slicing a gash into the previously unbroken string of ornate early 20th Century buildings on these blocks.
The tenant spaces appear to have been evacuated in a big hurry. Displays, ad posters, neon signs, and even some merchandise remain behind.
This is a beautiful and richly ornamented building. It features a two-tone brick pattern alternating thin and thick bricks in running bond. It is lavishly endowed with cream-colored glazed terra cotta ornament, none of which has been salvaged from the remaining portion of the building.
The demolition is a diminution of the public realm, and a real loss for Lawrence Avenue and Chicago at large. What a shame, what a shame.
- The Metro Theatre at Cinema Treasures