If a group of Highland Park residents committed to returning the Highland Park Theater to the live entertainment venue it was over 90 years ago learn what they hope in the next 120 days, the shuttered movie house will once again be an anchor for the east side of downtown.
Board members of the Alcyon Foundation were thrilled when they received a unanimous vote of the Highland Park City Council Monday during a regularly scheduled meeting for the exclusive right to develop a detailed plan for the building over the next 120 days.
“It will bring business to downtown Highland Park,” Alcyon Board Chairman Kimberly Saccaro said. That has been an issue on the east side of the central business district since Highland Park closed the city owned building in May, 2012.
The Alcyon Foundation has no relationship or connection to Alcyon LLC, a for profit business which negotiated with the City late last year for the right to redevelop the property and nothing came to fruition.
“With the theater closed there has been less foot traffic (on the east side of downtown) resulting in less sales for the businesses,” Al Klairmont, an active member of the Downtown Business Alliance and downtown property owner, said.
Should the Alcyon Foundation come away from its feasibility study believing it can raise $10 million, that plan will be a live entertainment venue which can also accommodate movies and private parties.
“Now we can start our fundraising,” Saccaro said. The group plans to raise an initial $20,000 to complete its feasibility study. Will the community support the proposed facility? “Our feasibility study will tell us that.”
Should the group go forward, it plans to raise the remaining $10 million from members of the community as well as corporate sponsorship. “Six to seven million dollars will be hard and soft construction costs,” Saccaro said. “At least $1 million will be an endowment.”
Alcyon’s vision includes a return to yesteryear with all the amenities of the 21st Century. “The look will be the 1920’s,” Saccaro said. “We’ll have a pull down screen with digital projection,” she added talking about the equipment necessary for movies and film festivals in 2013.
The theater was originally opened in 1927 as a live playhouse called the Alcyon, according to information distributed by the City two years ago when it first started seeking proposals. The group plans to restore the name as well the original flavor, according to Saccaro.
Though the Alcyon Foundation intends to offer live performances of music, dance and theater, it believes the life blood of the operation will be private rentals for events like weddings and bar or bat mitzvahs.
“It will have a very nice lobby,” board member Andrew Shapiro said. “People will want to have parties there.”
“There will be room for a dance floor,” added Saccaro.
If the feasibility study bears out when the Alcyon board believes, Saccaro estimates it will be two years before the doors open again.