Editorial: Efforts to boost 3 old theaters important to suburban downtown health
The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, the Des Plaines Theater in Des Plaines and the Catlow Theater in Barrington -- three stately, downtown theater buildings that have been the focus of recent community efforts aiming to give them new leases on life.
All three date to the mid-1920s and each is at a different stage in its operation and development, but they share the common bond that people cared enough about their futures to commit the time, energy and dollars to help ensure they will be viable.
Those efforts and others elsewhere are important, because such buildings and their venues are treasures that are part of the very fabric and character that's critical to making suburban downtowns vibrant places to visit for entertainment and commerce.
They are attractions that create foot traffic and keep money flowing to restaurants and other businesses.
The Catlow bills itself as the "heart of Barrington" and fans raised more than $100,000 in 2012 to fund a needed digital projector. This spring, in response to another cry for help from the theater's owner, Barrington Cultural Commission members are suggesting events and looking for other ways to improve business at the old single-screen movie house. Among the ideas being floated is a "Sound of Music" singalong over Thanksgiving weekend.
In Des Plaines, the city entered into an agreement with Rivers Casino last year to buy the shuttered theater from a private owner, with the casino pledging up to $2 million to help buy and renovate the building. This spring, aldermen finalized a five-year deal with Onesti Entertainment Corp. to lease and operate the theater. The city considers its reopening as integral to creating a thriving entertainment and restaurant district downtown.
And, just last week, a St. Charles father-and-son developer team announced they've closed on a deal to buy and make improvements to the Arcada, known in recent years as mostly a concert venue. The theater was shut down briefly in March because of code violations and other key safety issues that were addressed.
Curt and Conrad Hurst say their Frontier Development Group has created a plan to make the theater more comfortable for patrons attending concerts and other events. They will improve the electrical, heating and cooling systems, and address other outstanding concerns that have been raised over the building's condition.
"The Arcada Theatre was built to be the center of the community in 1926, and now more than ever, it's going to fulfill that legacy," Onesti told our Lauren Rohr. He has operated the Arcada for 14 years as its CEO and president.
Local property owners, local leaders and local volunteers rallying around local landmarks to make sure their best days will be ahead.