An upcoming committee meeting may determine the future of the empty space left by the recent demolition of the Colony Theatre in uptown Hillsboro.
Hillsboro City Council’s Property Maintenance and Restoration Committee will meet July 26 to discuss possibilities, and the meeting is open to the public.
Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie said he hopes the committee sets a definitive course of action during the meeting, but committee chair Ann Morris said that will all depend on the number of ideas brought up.
“Hopefully, we can come away with a plan, whatever that may be,” McKenzie said, “and have something to start doing the research for what it’s going to take to get construction going. I don’t necessarily want that drawn out two or three meetings before we come to a conclusion.”
McKenzie said something must be done as soon as possible to preserve the exposed portions of the buildings on either side of the space, no matter what the committee decides.
“It may take a little while before we nail down what exactly we’re going to put in that space between the buildings,” McKenzie said. “In the meantime, we’re going to have to weatherproof it so no damage is done to the neighboring buildings… I’m not sure if it’s going to be some type of stucco facing to smooth out the facial aspect of it, but some type of waterproofing has got to happen.”
Morris suggested at a previous meeting that a small park, or “pocket park” be installed in the empty space, and also said the construction of a decorative facade had been suggested to mimic the old marquee’s presence uptown.
Morris told The Times-Gazette on Tuesday that someone had suggested painting murals depicting the Colony and other historic buildings that have been torn down, such as the Mother Thompson house and the old Hillsboro High School.
“We don’t want to drag this on forever,” she said. “We really want to get it done and get something moving in there… I like the pocket park idea… And I like paying homage to the building and the Thompson house and the high school. It would be kind of cool to have a couple paintings of buildings up there. I would think that’s the most feasible idea, but if we get better ideas, that’s welcome also.”
When asked if the committee is expecting a decision next Wednesday, Morris said, “I would love to, but I can’t promise because it’s not just up to me. The sooner, the better, as far as I’m concerned. We’ll just have to see. I don’t want to drag it out too long.”
McKenzie said he’s in favor of a small park being installed, adding that he feels a theme referencing the Colony’s glory days could add a lot to the area.
“I think the micro garden or micro park is the best idea, just a patio basically, with maybe a few tables, benches, potted plants, even murals on either side, possibly depicting the Colony in its heyday,” he said. “We could call it the Colony Park or Colony Plaza, something to pay homage to what was there.”
Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings also said he’s in favor of a small park or seating area, but more as a temporary option to give the city a chance to contemplate long-term uses for the space.
“Right now, I would just like to see us create like a small pocket park, or just a small seating area with some greenery,” he said, “something that will make a difference and that doesn’t cost us a lot of money so we can still take time to consider a longer-term option.”
Hastings said the city is set to have some benches delivered soon, so he anticipates some would be used in the area.
“I’d like to get some greenery in there too,” he said.
McKenzie said he plans to make future demolition projects more seamless.
“In the future, any demo projects we have, I’m going to have a plan in place where the replacement project works right into that timeline so there’s no downtime between the two,” he said.
The Property Maintenance and Restoration Committee will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 26 in the community room at the North East Street firehouse.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.