Construction crews took advantage of warmer weather this week to continue work on a brick wall covering the exposed side of the Wanda’s Grill building adjacent to the empty Colony Theatre lot.
When the wall is complete, the sides of both buildings on either side of the lot will be covered, further preparing the empty space for a creative public square.
As previously reported, many Hillsboro and Highland County residents mourned the loss of the old theater, which city officials said had deteriorated beyond repair, but plans are in the works to develop the area into a unique space for the public to enjoy.
Hillsboro City Councilwoman Ann Morris, who chairs the Property Maintenance and Restoration Committee, said on Wednesday that sketches are being drawn up for possible designs.
At a meeting of that committee last year, local residents agreed that an open-air “pocket park” beneath a decorative facade mimicking the old theater’s marquee would be an attractive feature for the uptown area.
Movie-themed murals were also discussed, as well as some sort of marquee-style signage where community messages could be published.
Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie previously told The Times-Gazette that the design will be determined by the committee and the Hillsboro Design Review Board.
A city-owned parking lot is set to be installed where the rear portion of the old theater once stood, and there has been some debate as to whether or not those who park there should have to pay for its use.
It will be spring before any paving can be done, McKenzie said, 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.
The brick walls, both of which have been constructed this winter, had to be completed quickly to weatherproof the exposed walls of the Single Office Stop and Wanda’s Grill buildings on either side of the lot.
An earlier construction plan called for stucco-type walls, but the material turned out to be too expensive, McKenzie said.
Some local residents have said 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 had initially hoped to use the money for an uptown plaza project surrounding the Highland County Courthouse, although that project has not materialized.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.