A Request for Proposal (RFP) for ideas for the future of the Highland Park Theatre will be released Friday following the City Council's decision Monday to continue the procedure it has been developing for the last three months.
After the RFP is put out, tours to potential buyers and developers will be given the week of Sept. 26. Then proposals will be whittled down to those the Council feel are worthy of an interview. The winning idea will be chosen Nov. 30.
Resident reaction welcome
Once the choice is made, the City Council will begin the formal approval process, which will include at least one public hearing where residents will be invited to share their thoughts, according to Mayor Nancy Rotering.
Read More: Residents Question Theater’s Fate
Though concerns were raised about the overall selection process at a Sept. 7 public meeting, council members are comfortable the current RFP document will produce the desired results.
“This will run the gamit,” Rotering said.
An 'interest' in entertainment
The RFP contains language informing potential purchasers and developers the city has an “interest” in maintaining the property as an entertainment venue. The wording was a matter of debate between Council members August 8, as Councilmen David Naftzger and Tony Blumberg felt stating a preference the theater remain an arts building would limit potential bidders. The word “interest” was considered the least restrictive for the RFP.
Despite paring down stronger language, Councilmen Jim Kirsch and Steve Mandel preferred, Councilman Paul Frank reported members of Highland Park’s Business and Economic Development Commission (BEDC) still felt the wording was too limiting.
“I met with BEDC and they remarked some of the language was restrictive,” Frank said referring to the word "interest." “They would like us to take out this preference.”
Mandel, who listened to residents Sept. 7 along with Rotering and Councilman Dan Kaufman, saw no reason for delay. “Let’s send it out and see what’s out there,” he said. “I have no problem with the judgment of the seven of us [on the council].”
Narrowing the bidding list
Director of Community Development Michael Blue explained that as the number of proposals are narrowed to the most acceptable ones, appropriate details would be exchanged between the City and potential bidders.
“We can create a short list of people and ask them to provide detail,” Blue said. “You will choose on the quality of the idea and [the bidder’s] track record. We can do this whether we have 10 or three or four.”
Ravinia Business District update
In other business, the City Council received a report on the progress made for the Ravinia commercial area from the Ravinia District Advisory Committee Chair Katie Wiswald.
The Committee proposed creating the Ravinia Business District Alliance similar to the Downtown Business Alliance, which helps drive commerce in the central business district. The group hopes to complete significant streetscape improvement and hire some part time staff to reach out to business owners and citizens in the area.
The project is being financed by a TIF (tax increment financing) created in the area, according to Blue. It currently has $644,687 on hand from that source according to Wiswald.
Blue promised to finalize the necessary requirements to place approval of the bylaws before the City Council. Once passed, the efforts can begin.