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Highland Park Theatre Plan Details on the Way

The City Council will likely hear more specific about that Alcyon has in mind for the shuttered downtown movie theater in January.

The Highland Park City Council may decide whether or not to continue pursuing a proposal to redevelop the Highland Park Theatre as soon as next month.

Though the six month period for the city to examine a proposal from Alcyon LLC doesn't end until late-February, City Councilman Tony Blumberg believes the council will discuss the plan at its Jan. 14 meeting.

"I expect by Jan. 14 that we will have an open hearing at committee of the whole, where the public and City Council members will be able to ask questions," Blumberg said on Monday.

The Alcyon would seek to replace the Highland Park Theatre and its adjacent parking lot with a sixstory, terraced designed, mixeduse, LEED targeted development. The proposal includes 45 residential condominium units, 10,000 square feet of retail/commercial use, and a 500 to 600 seat theater/mixedmedia center. 

"The discussions are moving, I think, rather well and in a positive direction. But that is by no means an indication of whether the project will proceed or not proceed," Daniel Slack, a principal with Alcyon, told the Tribune last week. "We're obviously very positive about it, otherwise we wouldn't be pursuing it the way we're pursuing it."

In addition to Alcyon, the city is also working with Gruen and Gruen, a consulting firm that is analyzing the viability of Alcyon's proposal. Ensuring that all the information is available is paramount before a discussion can be had, according to Blumberg.

"When the City Council finally sits down with Alcyon and Gruen and Gruen, that has to be a very full event," Blumberg said. "We have to look at it from a few very critical angles."

Those angles include making sure the space is no longer a liability for the city and becomes something that generates revenue, according to Blumberg. It should also be an asset to local business owners, property owners and residents.

Blumberg is quick to point out that even if the City Council approves of Alcyon's plan, the details will be far from set in stone.

"if the council approves this… we will not stop in terms of input," Blumberg said. "We are going to put all aspects of this into the public domain."

Blumberg compared the process of assembling the plan for the theater to how the Park District tackled the Rosewood Beach redesign, with input from residents over the course of a year. The City Council signed off on Rosewood at its last meeting.

"All the input we got [about Rosewood] was very helpful and made this a better project," Blumberg said. "Whatever is proposed for the movie theater will need that kind of input."

If the City Council does not make a decision by the end of February, it can choose to either continue working with Alcyon or work with a different developer. The city may choose to put out a new request for proposals that asks for something more specific.

Though the theater has been shuttered since summer, business in Highland Park has not suffered as a result, according to Blumberg.

"For the past couple years, [the theater] has not drawn significant business," Blumberg said.

Some Highland Park residents, like real estate developer Jon Plotkin, told Patch earlier this year that the closed, city-owned theater would hurt downtown businesses.

"Going into the holiday season with a dark space at that end," Plotkin said, "Does not bode well for merchants up and down the street."

Blumberg acknowledged that it would be more aesthetically pleasing for the downtown if the theater were still open, but the costs involved with bringing the building up to code to do that are prohibitive.

"It's like when you're trying to sell a house, it's easier when the furniture is still in it and it's clean," Blumberg said. "There's just no way to do it."

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MR December 18, 2012 at 03:43 PM
The park district received input and then went ahead and did what they wanted to do. The last thing needed in the community( not insane asylum) is condominiums being built. The financial markets hasn't supported this type of construction thus the city (not insane asylum) SHOULD NOT contribute in any way, shape or form to this project. If it such a sound development, there's no need for fiscal assistance. The City of Highland Park needs to exist the real estate development business.
Jack Straw December 18, 2012 at 04:31 PM
I find this very interesting, 10 years ago when Ray Geraci was mayor he proposed a small hotel development on Second Street. He was met with a venomous reaction. Some of his detractors even portrayed him as a mobster in print material. Yet now a 6 story development on the east side of Highland Park is getting very little reaction. What is it that everyone wants? a small town or a microcosm of Chicago. I thought the sentiment was strong to keep H.P. a small town. Something of greater concern is that the biggest keep our town small voices are now big supporters of this development.
David Greenberg December 19, 2012 at 01:38 AM
I want a SMALL TOWN. If I wanted Chicago, along with all it's deleterious effects, I'd live there. I give the City many kudos for delving into this plan, for investigating the various aspects of it, and for promising to be transparent about it. However, whatever goes in the place of the Theater, it needs to be done w/o any financial assistance from the City/taxpayers. Let it stand on it's own two feet, let the potential buyers risk THEIR OWN capital if it's such a wonderful concept. And let them make it work w/o any zoning code changes or allowing extra tall structures to start getting their nose under the tent. Recall that the larger the structure - the larger the impact on infrastructure such as parking, streets, electrical grid, sewer capacity, water usage, telecommunications grid, police/fire, schools.... As a City we've already blown over $2 million on this boondoogle - it's time for the taxpayers to move on.

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