In an attempt to get ahead of expected inclement weather this weekend, a construction crew on Thursday was in the process of installing scaffolding and a large plastic cover in the empty space formerly occupied by the Colony Theatre on North High Street in Hillsboro.
The crew was preparing the area for the construction of a brick wall to cover up the exposed side of the Single Office Stop building.
Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie told The Times-Gazette that the wall may be constructed as soon as next week, if weather permits.
“It just depends on what the weather front does this weekend,” McKenzie said Thursday.
An earlier construction plan called for stucco-type walls on either side of the empty lot to cover the exposed sides of the adjacent buildings, but the material turned out to be too expensive, McKenzie said.
Brick walls proved to be a more economical option, according to McKenzie.
“This is going to just be straight brick, and it’s going to kind of tie in with the rest of it,” he said.
Construction of the walls is one of the first steps in a project intended to reshape the empty space, although official design plans have yet to be announced.
A July 2017 meeting of Hillsboro City Council’s Property Maintenance and Restoration Committee yielded a number of ideas as to what should be done with the empty area after the old theater was demolished earlier in the summer, and a majority of those in attendance agreed some sort of decorative facade mimicking the Colony’s marquee should be installed with a small open-air park beneath it.
A city-owned parking lot is set to be installed where the rear portion of the old building once stood, and there has been some debate as to whether or not those who park there should have to pay for its use.
A number of attendees agreed the Colony project may be a good use of a $78,000 gift donated to the city in 2013 from a trust courtesy of William Mason Jr., intended to be used at the discretion of Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings.
Hastings has said he would need council’s approval to allocate the funds, and had initially hoped to use the money for an uptown plaza project surrounding the Highland County Courthouse, although that project has not taken off.
McKenzie, who has been involved in the planning process for the Colony project, said any design decisions will be up to council committees and the Hillsboro Design Review Board.
“It’ll just be a planning process,” he said, “how we’re going to develop it and lay it out… They haven’t made a decision yet.”
It will be spring before any paving can be done, since some portions of the ground in the space have been filled in with rubble from the demolition, and it will have to settle before the area can be paved.
McKenzie said he was just happy to see work getting done on Thursday.
“It’s finally happening,” he said, “or at least something is happening, finally.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.