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 six‐story, terraced designed, mixed‐use, 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/mixed‐media 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."