Two Hillsboro City Council committees agreed Thursday to move forward with construction of a pocket park to fill the empty lot formerly occupied by the Colony Theatre, but a proposed decorative facade mimicking the theater’s marquee may have to be scaled back due to potential cost and construction complications.
Members of the Property Maintenance and Restoration Committee and the Community Enhancement Committee have met a number of times in the past year to discuss what to do with the empty lot after the old theater was demolished, and many attendees have said they like the idea of a pocket park and steel marquee, as well as setting up the theater’s old ticket booths among benches and landscaping.
Local historian Avery Applegate, charged with drawing a rendering of the park and marquee, presented the drawing to the committees on Thursday.
The park will include several benches, light poles similar to those around the uptown area, trees and/or shrubs, and a sidewalk along the side of the Single Office Stop building on the north side of the lot.
The gravel lot behind the space is set to become a parking lot.
Property maintenance chairwoman Ann Morris said the park should be constructed first so it can be enjoyed this summer, then the marquee can be examined further, although Hillsboro Public Works Superintendent Shawn Adkins said if the marquee comes to fruition, a substantial amount of paving and sidewalk would have to be torn up for construction.
Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie said installing a footer to brace the marquee would also be complicated due to the large pieces of rubble from the theater’s demolition buried below the lot. McKenzie said depending on the weight and size of the proposed marquee, crews would have to dig a minimum of 12 feet below the lot to install the footer, or as deep as 18 feet. Adkins said the footer alone could cost as much as $30,000.
McKenzie added that, based on recent conversations with city Auditor Gary Lewis, he has concerns about city crews working on projects outside their regular street- and sewer-related duties due to state auditing processes. He said the issue will be discussed further when he learns more.
Adam Raines, a local architect who often consults with the city, also attended the meeting, saying the footers would have to be “pretty substantial,” but, “it’s doable.” Raines said he would obtain quotes for the price of the marquee project.
Morris said the city has $21,000 on hand for the pocket park, but additional funding will likely have to be identified for the marquee, which some committee members said could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Councilman Justin Harsha, who sits on the property committee, said if the cost of the marquee is “$300,000 or $400,000, we’re not even talking about that… We just need to move forward with this pocket park.”
Applegate said the design could be revised to a more lightweight arch with a more conservative marquee design cut into the steel. Committee members agreed that would solve the footer problem and be more financially feasible.
The committees reached a consensus to proceed with the pocket park and discuss the marquee further at a later meeting.
Applegate said she would draw up another design.
Later in the evening, the Finance Committee met to discuss transferring a number of city properties to the city’s Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) so they can be sold. McKenzie said the revenue could be put toward the park. The committee agreed to present the idea to council.
Council will meet for its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, June 11 at the Highland County Justice Center.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.