Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How it should be in Rogers Park

The condensed version:
excerpt from the Chicago Tribune,0,5909828.story

Plans to breathe new life into a hidden architectural gem in downtown Evanston picked up speed recently as City Council members agreed to explore the possibility of reopening one of the Chicago area's grandest movie palaces as a performing arts center.

The Evanston City Council has voted unanimously to seek a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts as seed money for a possible rehabilitation of the 84-year-old Varsity Theater.

If the city gets the grant funds, it will contribute an additional $50,000. The money would be used to study the finances, architecture and proposed business plan to determine if reopening the shuttered downtown theater as a performing arts center is viable, city officials said.

"I think there's economic development impacts for the community," said Doug Gaynor, the city's director of parks, recreation and forestry. "It's always great to have cultural arts activities in the downtown."

"It needs work, but it's got great possibilities," said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl. "What makes it beautiful and exciting to me is not the shape it's in right now but the shape it could be in."

About half of the interior d├ęcor has been removed or painted over, but the theater still has a distinct old movie palace quality, and the structure itself is in solid shape, said owner Steven Rogin.

"I think it could be a focal point for the arts community in Evanston," he said.

It's unclear at this point where the city would get the millions of dollars it would take to rehab the theater and where it would find a permanent tenant for a performing arts center. But Fiske said those are issues that could be addressed later.

"The grant money would allow us to get an idea of what it would take to reconfigure the building so that it would work," she said. "We're really lucky we retained that building."

How it is in Rogers Park

Here are some examples that we encountered when attempting to save and reopen the Adelphi Theater:

"What do you expect, this is City Hall" Alderman Joe Moore to the Citizens for the Adelphi Theater in City Council Chambers

"If you want my support, put the money on the table" Alderman Joe Moore to Bill Morton at his Jarvis Square storefront

Over 1,000 petition signatures hand delivered to Alderman Joe Moore and no response

And, of course... this:

On a more timely note: There is the Wisdom Bridge Theatre.

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