It’s been dying for a while, that spirit just northwest of the city on Milwaukee Avenue. The old Polish neighborhood that once housed quaint cottages and walk-ups with small goat and chicken farms has taken on plenty of evolutions over the generations, but it appears it may be the end of a crucial chapter for one of the city’s most vibrant communities. Today it was announced that the Double Door, a beloved music venue at 1570 N. Milwaukee Ave just south of the area’s six corners has been sold to downtown developers to be renovated into a Shake Shack, perhaps marking the end of Wicker Park as we know it.
The announcement comes on the heels of reports that the owner of the venue, which opened in June 1994 had been squabbling with the building owners Brian Strauss who has been trying to evict the venue since its lease ended on Oct. 31. The pair have not accepted rent payments from Double Door's owners, Joe Shanahan and Sean Mulroney either, choosing instead to force them out via court proceedings, which have been extended until Friday. Despite the pending lawsuit, an "affidavit of interest" was signed on Dec. 18 and notarized on Dec. 23, the final agreement may take several weeks to complete.
This news comes as the area of Bucktown/Wicker Park solidifies its migration from outskirt, artist-friendly locale with an edge to the kind of soulless, baby-friendly neighborhood that attracts "foodies" and those out of touch with culture generally. From the 404 Trail which has become a sort of highway for gentrification on the northwest side to the renovation of the North Tower into a boutique hotel, the area is a long way from its humble days as an artist enclave, where low-cost lofts and more mundane surroundings spurred art and progression for the city at large. Now, the basketball courts have been turned to dog parks and humble bungalows torn down for block-long McMansions. While loud music and crowds late into the night wasn't an issue in the area twenty years ago, a different lifestyle has cropped up around them and its bedtime is much earlier. It appears as though the 550-person venue is simply the latest domino to fall as hipsters and yuppies continue their march towards Logan Square.
Interestingly enough, the migration northwest comes as the population of the city falls each year. Near Halsted and Lake St., not far from the new Google headquarters, high-rises have been going up on a seemingly daily basis, taking with it rent prices which continue to skyrocket despite the falling numbers of people looking to live here.
Despite the sad news that Strauss has little respect for the culture his property helped to foster, we can certainly take pride in Double Door owners, who despite lengthy court cases and lawsuits has continued to stick it out, selling tickets to upcoming shows and essentially giving a big middle finger to all on the other side of this dismantling. By handling it in a truly Chicagoan way, the venue simply continues to convey its importance of a time now past in a neighborhood once influential.
Stop by Double Door if for nothing else than to experience a local staple before it only exists in the history books and that Josh Hartnett movie. In fact, stop by Wicker Park because it won't be recognizable much longer.