And more bad news ...
Hinsdale Theater's time may run out
By Lynn Van Matre
Tribune staff reporter
July 1, 2003
The curtain could be coming down for good at the historic Hinsdale Theater.
One month before the Hinsdale Theater Foundation was scheduled to take over payments on a 50-year lease on the vintage movie house, the group has abandoned efforts to restore the venue as a film and performing arts center.
Pat Bruder, the foundation's chairman of the board, said Monday the decision to pull out of the project was prompted by unresolved differences after long negotiations with the building's owners and landlord. Among other things, Bruder said the group could not get satisfactory guarantees that money spent on infrastructure improvements would be reimbursed if the arts venue did not succeed.
"As sad as it is for all parties involved, we just couldn't come to terms," Bruder said. "There are no hard feelings."
Members of the not-for-profit group had raised approximately $4 million in pledges toward the project, which was scheduled to begin this summer. But they had little cash in hand as of yet.
The foundation had been scheduled to take over payments on the theater from the Village of Hinsdale, which has been renting the privately owned building and subleasing it to the foundation. The current lease is up July 31. The village had been working to extend the lease for up to 50 years, renewable in five-year increments, with the foundation footing the bill.
Theater co-owner and tenant George Avgeris, who maintains a law office in the building, declined comment Monday.
"To say I am disappointed is the understatement of the day," Hinsdale Village President George Faulstich said Monday. "This project has been under way for more than three years and there have been some huge accomplishments. But having said that, there were some issues in the lease that still had to be resolved."
Among the issues was the owners' refusal to allow the group to use the building as collateral in obtaining a bridge loan to cover construction costs until pledges were received, he said. Bruder described the bridge loan issue as a secondary concern.
Built in 1925, the theater at 31 E. 1st St. has been owned by members of the Avgeris family since the 1950s.
The building had been viewed as ripe for commercial development before the theater foundation launched the crusade to save it.
Maureen Hegarty, executive vice president of the Hinsdale Theater Foundation, said the group remained committed to providing film and performing arts programs in the village.
"How we will do that, we are not sure," said Hegarty, who is heading up a task force formed to explore the group's options. "But there are wonderful places in Hinsdale to present programs, and we think we could move ahead without a [permanent] venue. Looking for a new facility is not a priority now."
Hegarty said the foundation has begun contacting pledge donors about the decision.
"We may have an attrition of some donors who are just interested in historical preservation, but we are hoping they all will stick with us," she said.
Copyright (c) 2003, Chicago Tribune
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