Highland Park Theater project would be ‘self-supporting,’ developers say
The Highland Park Theater.
Updated: March 11, 2013 5:09PM
HIGHLAND PARK — The $7 million in “financial assistance” needed to make a go of the Highland Park Theater redevelopment wouldn’t come from city taxpayers, but rather would be paid off over time with revenues generated by the project, developers Steven Korol and Daniel Slack stressed Monday, Feb. 25.
“We don’t think that we did a good job of communicating what ‘self-supporting’ means,” said Korol, updating council members during a committee of the whole meeting. “There is no city or taxpayer subsidy being requested.”
The developers, Alcyon LLC, are proposing that the city create a Tax Increment Financing district for the project on the eastern edge of the downtown shopping district. To generate the upfront funding assistance, the city would be asked to issue bonds that would be paid off with property tax and other revenues generated by the development over 23 years.
The developers are proposing to preserve and renovate the historic movie house as an entertainment and arts-training venue. The complex also would include a terraced, six-story condominium building of 45 units and 10,000-square-feet of retail space on the adjacent city-owned parking lot. A double-deck parking lot would be constructed across the street to replace the lost parking.
Council members expressed disappointment that the developer’s new theater point person, Anthony Tomaska, was unable to attend Monday’s meeting as the viability of the theater is central to the project. 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 Chicago’s River West neighborhood, which is not currently used as a performance venue.
Council member Paul Frank said he would like to hear Tomaska’s explanation of what happened with that venue and why it is not being used as a performance venue. When Tomaska was asked about his previous experience in January, he responded that the Chicago Center is the project that most closely resembles what he envisions for Highland Park.
The council directed its attorney, Steven Elrod, to research whether the city could create a TIF district for the area. Mayor Nancy Rotering noted the city had used some funds left over from an expired Tax Increment Financing District when it purchased the theater for $2.1 million in 2009.
Elrod said Tax Increment Financing districts in Illinois must be at least 1.5 acres. The developers said the project area is close to that size threshold.