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Highland Park receives five proposals for shuttered theater

A detail shot of the Highland Park Theater marquee. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
A detail shot of the Highland Park Theater marquee. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
The city of Highland Park has received five conceptual proposals for the Highland Park Theatre property as the council prepares for Round 2 of talks.
 
The proposals include constructing a new multi-screen movie theater, managing the city-owned space for a theater company and constructing new shops and offices.
 
The city council plans to narrow the list to three proposals and invite representatives to meet with council members during the week of Sept. 9. Under a tentative timetable, the council would select a single proposal by the week ofSept. 23, and enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement.
 
A previous pact with a development team expired in February with council members raising concern over the amount of city financing required and the sketchiness of the entertainment proposal.
 
The city responded in July by putting out an open-ended invitation — a Request for Expressions of Interest and Qualifications — that stated a preference for proposals that included an entertainment component. The submissions were due Aug. 9.
 
Four of the five responses included entertainment of some form as part of a rehabilitation of the shuttered building or a new development.
 
The concepts included:
• Leasing the property to construct a new, privately-funded, multi-screen movie theater and a parking deck, funded by the city;
• Purchasing the property to renovate the theater into a multi-screen cinema venue, while constructing new retail space on part of the adjacent, city-owned parking lot;
• Leasing the property to renovate the 1927 theater building for various entertainment programming;
• Purchasing the property to construct a multi-use retail and office building that possibly includes a restoration of the theater building.
• Managing the theater space for a theater company and other entertainment uses.
 
The city of Highland Park acquired the financially-struggling theater for $2.1 million four years ago, when the owner planned to convert it to offices.
 
While the city kept the movie theater open for three years, the theater was abruptly closed in May, 2012 due to code violations. A Facility Assessment Report dating to mid 2008 came to light, pegging the cost of correcting code violations and addressing long-deferred maintenance at $2.7 million.
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