What to do with the Colony space? Start thinking now, show up Wednesday


By Gary Abernathy - gabernathy@timesgazette.com



What to do with the space that remains along North High Street in uptown Hillsboro between two buildings after the Colony Theatre was torn down will be the focus of a city council Property, Maintenance and Restoration Committee meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the fire station on North East Street.

After we posed that question on our Facebook page, a number of suggestions were made. One idea was a veterans’ memorial with seating, a fountain and artwork on the sides of the walls of the adjoining businesses. Another reader suggested a youth center. Other suggestions included a nice sitting park. Public restrooms have been suggested.

The original plan to simply tear down the large rear auditorium portion of the building and maintain the façade, front entrance and former concession stand area of the Colony became unworkable when officials realized how unstable the front part of the building was after the back part was torn down. Sadly, the rest of the structure had to come down, too, for safety reasons.

Mel McKenzie, the safety and service director, told The Times-Gazette recently, “Hopefully, we can come away with a plan, whatever that may be, 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.”

I agree, so let’s start thinking now.

I think a neat idea would be to construct some sort of homage to the Colony in conjunction with a nice parkway/breezeway leading to and from the planned parking area in the back.

For instance, build something in the front along the sidewalk that — maybe in an art deco sort of way — represents the Colony marquee, with a small park/sitting area employing a movie theme, including artwork along the side of the walls representing some of the classic films and movie stars who graced the Colony’s silver screen during its heyday of the late 1930s through the 1980s.

A modest mural along one of the walls could show the Colony in its former glory, along with a history of the theater. There are all sorts of fun movie-related amenities that could fill the space.

But that’s just me. A similar park or walkway with other themes might be suggested. Perhaps something that honors various highpoints in Hillsboro history would be preferred, or a decorative theme that pays tribute to one special moment from Hillsboro’s past, from among the many choices we have. The neat thing about this opportunity is that the only limit to what might be suggested is our imagination.

The idea of public restrooms is nice. In an ideal world, the restrooms would be bright, clean and safe, and a convenience for shoppers and visitors. In the imperfect world in which we actually live, all sorts of nefarious activity could take place, the restrooms could be regularly trashed, and the whole thing becomes an eyesore. Police constantly monitoring the restrooms is not something I imagine they have the time or manpower to do.

Still, whatever ends up going into the space will need to be brightly illuminated during the nighttime hours and regularly patrolled to prevent it from becoming a haven for illicit activity.

We all agree that honoring our veterans is one of the most important things we can do. But with a beautiful new veterans’ memorial already located on the other side of the block, on the west side of the courthouse, building another one where the Colony once stood might be unnecessary.

Doing something as extensive as building a youth center is probably not on the table, cost-wise. I imagine that what the city has in mind is something that will be attractive, practical and enjoyable, but something that won’t break the bank, either. Most likely an open-air park or walkway with benches, maybe wrought-iron tables and chairs, greenery, etc., is more feasible than constructing a new building or facility.

The community will have an opportunity to weigh in on Wednesday, and everyone who cares should show up for a fun and positive discussion about what to do going forward. I share the sadness of most of the community that the theater had to come down, but since it did, it presents an opportunity to have some fun with what we do with the space that remains.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

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By Gary Abernathy

gabernathy@timesgazette.com

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