Arcada operator: Theater could 'step up the experience' under new ownership

The building that houses the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles has loomed large in the minds of local developers Curt and Conrad Hurst.

The father-son team has passed by 105 E. Main St. every day for years, eyeing the historic downtown property and dreaming of its potential, Conrad Hurst said. So when faced with the opportunity to buy the site and help fix it up, he and his dad jumped on it.

Their St. Charles company, Frontier Development Group, closed on the property May 3 and quickly began creating a plan to make the theater more comfortable for patrons, Hurst said. That includes improving the electrical, heating and cooling systems, and addressing other outstanding concerns that have been raised over the building's condition.

The theater, previously owned by a Seattle man, has served as a cultural icon and an entertainment hub for the Fox Valley area since it was built in 1926, Hurst said.

"We see what it is and we see what it could be," he said. "Now we're just excited to be in the driver's seat and help to realize its potential."

Having new, local ownership is an "exciting change" for Arcada CEO and President Ron Onesti, who has invested much of his own time and money in the building.

When the city shut it down in March, the theater was given a temporary occupancy permit that allowed it to reopen the next day after fixing key safety issues, including portable seating and exposed electrical wires. Onesti has since been working with city officials to remedy about two-thirds of the concerns identified during an independent inspection, Fire Chief Joe Schelstreet said.

The city typically treats the building owner, not the tenant, as the ultimate authority for addressing ordinance violations, he said, but having an absentee owner blurred those lines.

"Ron stepped up and did a lot more than your traditional tenant would do," Schelstreet said. "With the new (owners), there's a much more defined relationship. ... We're very positive about what the outcome is going to be for the Arcada Theatre."

With a handful of projects under way in St. Charles, Frontier already has a close partnership with city officials. The development group plans to construct a new multiuse building at Illinois Street and Route 31, and also is renovating a Riverside Avenue property that will soon house a brewery and sports bar.

Meetings between Arcada and Frontier representatives have been positive so far, said Onesti, who has operated the theater for 14 years. Building improvements could include additional bathrooms and other enhancements to "step up the experience" for concert and event attendees, he said.

"It's obvious to me that there is a sincere concern for not only the Arcada Theatre, but also for the people of St. Charles with the new owners," Onesti said. "The Arcada Theatre was built to be a center of the community in 1926, and now more than ever, it's going to fulfill that legacy."

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