A Hillsboro City Council committee agreed Wednesday to recommend that the city proceed with the first phase of repairing the façade of the Colony Theatre, and another committee agreed to proceed with a dog park at Liberty Park.
The Community Enhancement Committee and the Property, Maintenance and Restoration Committee held back-to-back sessions at the new fire station, with the property committee hearing cost estimates on various stages of work to keep and enhance the portion of the Colony that is visible from North High Street.
Water damage and general neglect have left the Colony in a state of disrepair that most observers, including city officials and historic preservationists, have agreed is too expensive to rehabilitate when it comes to saving the whole facility.
But property committee members Ann Morris, Justin Harsha and Dick Donley voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend to council that work move forward on preserving the façade of the Colony from the front of the building to the glass doors leading inside the building.
Darin S. Schweickart, a former Hillsboro-based architect now with DS2 architects of Maysville, Ky., showed cost estimates totaling about $80,000 to renovate the existing façade, with work ranging from $22,500 for construction of a new parapet wall, $10,375 for new roofing, $5,000 for painting and about $8,000 for electrical service and connection of existing electricity, along with other items.
The estimate suggested another $20,000 for the addition of two restrooms in the façade area, following up on a plan that would have public restrooms available for uptown events.
Restoring replicas of the Colony’s original sign and marquee, which were larger than the existing ones, would cost about $125,000, according to the estimate.
Repairing the existing façade would solve a problem in regard to the fact that the side walls of the front of the Colony are basically the same walls that support the businesses on each side of the theater. Structurally, officials say that demolishing the walls would damage the other buildings.
Eventually, the large auditorium portion of the facility would be demolished under the current plan. The architectural plans presented Wednesday showed a parking lot in its place capable of holding 18 vehicles, along with a handicapped spot.
Council member Becky Wilkin was present and said she was not in favor of a parking lot, and suggested the space could be turned into a park. But committee member Justin Harsha said the space that will exist between the façade and the proposed parking lot – roughly from the front glass doors of the Colony to the old concession stand area – could be an open-air park-like area.
Wednesday’s meeting did not include formal recommendations beyond the first phase of the façade repair.
Local historical society members, led by Avery Applegate, were finishing work Thursday in their effort to remove and preserve the large murals that adorned the walls of the auditorium portion of the theater. Each mural has been carefully placed in flat boxes for removal, and the pine panels that had framed the murals were also removed for future use.
In another matter Wednesday, the property committee also agreed to make recommendations to council that would upgrade language governing the removal of junk cars in Hillsboro, and to add language to the sign ordinance regarding temporary signs that was originally intended to be part of the ordinance but was mistakenly omitted.
The evening led off with a meeting of the Community Enhancement Committee, made up of Claudia Klein, Wilkin and Donley. The committee voted to proceed with a dog park at Liberty Park, although members also agreed that several details are yet to be decided.
For now, the dog park is slated to be located just to the east, or the back side, of the YMCA. The parking lot is owned by the city and would be available for residents who take their dogs to the park, said Todd Wilkin, the safety and service director.
But Todd Wilkin said the location of the park could be shifted if needed or desired, although he recommended against an area that he said retains water and would be too saturated much of the time. He said he noticed this week people letting their dogs run at the Harmony Lake area of Liberty, and questioned whether dog owners who do that would use the park instead.
Committee members, other council members including Tracy Aranyos, and a few citizens in attendance discussed other dog park issues, including the suggestion that the disbanded dog park association still might have money remaining, although they agreed the disposition of those funds was out of their hands.
Committee recommendations will be presented to the full council at its next regular meeting on Sept. 12.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.