Days after unanimously voting to shut down the Highland Park Theater and Port Clinton Parking Garage, the Highland Park City Council will meet Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall to discuss what's next for these city-owned facilities.
"We're going to have a more in-depth analysis of what the actual conditions are and have a conversation about a possible way to fix [the theater] temporarily to keep it open," Mayor Nancy Rotering said.
The decision to shut down the theater and parking garage came after both facilities were examined by an independent fire inspector, which led Highland Park Fire Chief Pat Tanner to recommend immediate closure. Though specifics have yet to be released, Tanner told Patch that the preliminary report cited the sprinkler system in both facilities as safety concerns, a conclusion echoed by members of the city council.
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"We've also been told that the sprinklers in the garage are past their normal life expectancy," said Councilman Paul Frank.
Both Frank and Rotering told Patch that they hope to see both facilities reopened. Rotering stressed that the parking garage is the top priority.
"Tonight's meeting is 80 percent focused on the garage," Rotering said. "We need to move to get the parking garage reopened as quickly as possible. It impacts employers, businesses and the city at large."
Though whether or not the city should own a movie theater was a hotly contested topic during last April's election, Frank said the decision to shut down the theater was solely based on the newly revealed safety violations.
"This is not related to any of our concerns about the city owning and operating a movie theater," Frank said. "I'm hopeful that we can get a few things done in there to get it operating again soon."
Rotering said that the conversation going forward would be about how much the city should invest in the theater as it waits for someone to buy it. The Request for Proposals (RFP) went out last year and the city is currently in talks with a potential buyer.
"If someone else is going to buy the theater it's not the best use of city dollars to put a lot of money into it," Rotering said. "We need to see what it would cost to have [the theater] safe enough to open now and see where things go as we move ahead with the possibility… for someone to take it over."
Frank expressed regret that the city council didn't give more information to residents before the closures about the status of the RFP. When the council learned of the safety concerns, however, it took immediate action.
"When you have this information, you have to act quickly on it," Frank said. "It was such that the fire chief said we can't have people in these buildings."
Rotering said that the city council hadn't updated residents about the RFP recently because the council had not gotten any new information from the sole potential buyer. She added, however, that the city council intends to keep the theater "an entertainment destination."
Frank doesn't see the newly revealed safety violations as stopping the potential purchase of the theater.
"I don't see any of these maintenance issues being an impediment to moving forward," Frank said.