No clear consensus of public opinion on the future of the came out of a special meeting of the City Council’s Committee of the Whole Wednesday at City Hall.
More than 30 people attended to hear the Council’s progress on its plans with the theater and voice their opinion on future ideas.
The lack of cohesive support of for any specific use combined with criticism over the City’s proposed process to determine the property’s future led to reconsider the next steps.
“We’re going to take a look at the process that will get the best conclusion,” Rotering said. “The economic impact will be big to downtown Highland Park. We really need to look at process.”
The Council plans to put the finishing it will publish for potential developers at its Committee of the Whole meeting at 6:45 p.m. Monday according to its published agenda.
Rotering along with Councilmen —the only Council members to attend—will take the public input to today’s meeting.
The current plan is to release the RFP Friday with the winner chosen around Thanksgiving, according to the outline presented to the group by Community Development Director Michael Blue.
Taking a closer look
Shortly after Blue finished his presentation, real estate developer Michael Tobin of Highland Park expressed his displeasure with the swift nature of the RFP process. The Highland Park native wants a more contemplative effort.
“There is no material study to determine what demand would be,” Tobin said. “We should take more time to gather community input to determine the best proposal for the community.”
Tobin had support in the room. Architect Jerry Meister of Highland Park has been active in a number of civic campaigns. He cautioned the City Council take a closer look.
“Mr. Tobin’s comments should be taken very seriously,” Meister said. “The developer needs to put together a well thought out project. If serious thought is not put into [the RFP] what serious developer would respond?”
A number of people were not shy about their ideas, which included everything from maintaining the status quo to waiving current zoning restrictions to allow a hotel. Others want to see the City get rid of the property as soon as it can.
“My heart tells me art, but my head tells me the money is not there,” Abby Neumann of Highland Park said. “I don’t know if the community can support an arts venue.”
Art venue possible?
Others, like Jeff Orlove of Highland Park, think an arts venue can only be preserved if the property is turned into a mixed use project with other revenue streams.
“The City Council must take a big step forward for mixed uses as the highest and best use,” Orlove said. “It may be possible to maintain the first floor as a small retail component. The upper level can be the arts component.”
He also suggested making it a new home for the Highland Park Senior Center.
Linda Barbera Stein of Highland Park insisted a movie theater should be part of the development but does not shy away from mixed uses. She suggested different kinds of films at various times of the day and week.
“Film must be a component,” Stein said. “Films could be shown on the weekend with film education done during the day.”
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