Upfront theater subsidies a ‘tough sell’ with council
Developers Steve Korol (left) and Daniel Slack of Alcyon LLC stand in front of the Highland Park Theater on Aug. 30, 2012. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 26, 2013 10:44AM
HIGHLAND PARK — New clouds of uncertainty were cast over the Highland Park Theater Monday when members of the city council expressed discomfort with a financing proposal requiring an estimated $7 million in upfront subsidies.
Prospective developers Steve Korol and Daniel Slack are proposing a mixed-use development that would preserve and renovate the theater as an entertainment and arts-training venue. The complex would include a terraced, six-story condominium building with 10,000 square feet of retail space on the adjacent parking lot.
A double-deck parking lot would be constructed across the street to replace the lost parking.
The city selected the developers from a trio of finalists in early 2012 and entered into an exclusive agreement in late August to allow for deeper study. The city also hired the consultancy of Gruen Gruen + Associates to conduct a financial analysis on the city’s behalf.
The six- month agreement will expire in late February, and the developers Monday asked for a time extension to allow a new theater partner, Anthony Tomaska, to further develop the theater side of the proposal. Tomaska is a producer of the long-running Chicago hit, Tony & Tina’s Wedding, as well as other theater and film projects. He also co-founded and developed the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts in the River West neighborhood that is not currently used as a performance venue.
Council members declined to grant the extension during their Committee of the Whole meeting, and advised the developers to provide what they could by Wednesday, Feb. 27, when the exclusive agreement is set to expire.
Council member David Nafzger said a subsidy of the magnitude of $7 million “is going to be a tough sell, at least for me. I think we have some other options here,” he said, referring to other presentations last year.
The developers, operating as Alcyon LLC, are proposing a 625-seat main-stage theater and a smaller theater of about 100 seats. The spaces would be used for live theater, independent films, acting classes, dance performances and other offerings.
During the discussion, Highland Park resident Sandy Stein stepped forward to say his Central Cinema LLC was the original theater partner to work with the Alcyon team. Central Cinema also was one of the original responders to the city’s request for proposals. He wanted his group to be included in further discussions.
Said Stein, “We have no interest in developing retail or condominiums.”