Added Mar 27 2012
I have an idea that may help save the theater and ensure its place in the community for decades to come.
• First we set up a foundation; we can call it the Portage Theater Foundation.
• We then use TIF funds from the over $10 Million dollars in the Portage Park TIF and buy the property for the full $2.5 million that the owner is asking for.
• We then turn the property over to the foundation for $1
This sets up a foundation with no multi-million dollar loan to repay; this allows the foundation to offer the retail space at a discounted rent to attract a dance studio, music store, acting school, art school, etc; businesses that would attract families to the area that would center on the theater. All the revenue generated would go toward property maintenance, renovations and taxes. Any surplus could be used for scholarships for local schools for the arts.
This would create something similar to the Copernicus Center or the Irish Heritage Center. We can still do the Jazz club and restaurant, they would just lease from the Foundation.
TIF money was used to purchase properties and sell them to a developer at Milwaukee and Lawrence. One of the lots was given to the Copernicus for $1.
TIF money is our property tax dollars. The turnout at the meeting on the 26th shows the community wants to save the theater, so why not use our money for something the community clearly wants.
The ideas presented and plans for the theater should another buyer have the opportunity to buy sound great. My only concern going from one property owner to another is running into this same problem down the road should we have another down-turn in the economy.
It’s clear our Alderman supports the theater and intends to do what he can to save the theater. Working together with the Mayor, I believe he can get this done; especially if he is able to show the overwhelming support he has from the community.
I hope this helps or at least stimulates more ideas,