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updated: 2/15/2018 10:16 AM

Des Plaines reaches tentative deal to buy Des Plaines Theatre for $1.3 million

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  • City officials have a tentative deal in place to buy the 92-year-old Des Plaines Theatre for almost $1.3 million. City aldermen could approve the deal as early as Monday.

      City officials have a tentative deal in place to buy the 92-year-old Des Plaines Theatre for almost $1.3 million. City aldermen could approve the deal as early as Monday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer, 2014

 
 
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the day of the city council meeting. The meeting is Tuesday because of the President's Day holiday on Monday.

City officials have reached a tentative agreement to buy the downtown Des Plaines Theatre for almost $1.3 million.

The deal between the city and theater owner Dhitu Bhagwakar is contingent on the council's approval at Tuesday's meeting. Terms of the deal were revealed in documents released Wednesday morning.

Final approval would conclude a yearslong effort to reopen the shuttered Art Deco-style building at 1476 Miner St., which city leaders view as a cornerstone to energizing a downtown restaurant and entertainment district.

City Manager Mike Bartholomew said the theater will be the focus of the city's economic development plans this year.

"I believe that the restaurant district really isn't going to take off until the restaurant community sees there is something happening with the theater," Bartholomew said. "Until the city controls the theater and they actually see renovations, that's when people might think, 'OK, I'm going to open my restaurant downtown.'"

Pieces for developing a restaurant district are already in place. A couple of years ago, the city created an incentive program to give up to $100,000 for business owners to open new restaurants.

Des Plaines likely will have help in funding a revival of the 92-year-old theater that's been closed since February 2014 because of code violations. The city and Rivers Casino inked a nonbinding agreement in August in which both sides pledged to contribute up to $2 million to buy and renovate the theater.

The Des Plaines-based casino has committed $50,000 more per year for five years for theater programming.

Under the city and casino's plan, officials would hire a manager to book shows and run day-to-day operations.

Aldermen so far largely have supported the plan to take ownership of the theater. They agreed to let city officials make a final offer on the property and later approved steps toward condemning the theater to forcibly acquire it.

That legal action was floated as an option late last year when the city and Bhagwakar remained far apart. The city offered $450,000 while Bhagwakar cited the appraised value of $2.3 million. In 2002, he bought the theater for $920,000 and made improvements to the building.

The city council meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday at 1420 Miner St.

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