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Bidding Process Begins for Theater

City starts formal process to decide future of historic movie house.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) for ideas for the future of the 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 .

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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 , as Councilmen  and 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 and preferred, 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.” 

The RFP can be found on the City’s website

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 , 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.

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Bob Levi September 16, 2011 at 01:35 PM
In reflecting the City Council's wording on the RFP, I think they're making a mistake in emphasizing an "interest" in continuing the property as an entertainment venue . One question I'd like to pose to the Mayor and the City Council: If you were the investor, would you invest your money in a run down movie theater that needed considerable renovation with no guarantee of a payback? The movie theater has lost money since the City bought it. What makes everyone think that's going to change now. Keep in mind that movie attendence continues declining. My guess that it has to do with the Netflix concept and On Demand movies. People don't have to leave their homes to see a first run movie any longer on their big screen TV.
Lane Young September 16, 2011 at 07:01 PM
Voted no above (my favorite theater idea is the botique hotel, despite the fact it would require some zoning changes), but the idea behind entertainment is that it doesn't necessarily have to be movies, as the original idea was for Glencoe's Writer's Theater. Entertainment is preferable as people that come for entertainment tend to spend other money in the downtown thus helping boost sale taxes and economic viability beyond just its space. So if we can get a viable entertainment option great, but I agree with you that I think most entertainment options are going to end up need long term subsidies.

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