Chamber Member Reaches Out to Community to Take Action Toward Restoration of Wheaton Grand Theater
Wheaton Chamber of Commerce member, Steve Pointner, sent a mass email yesterday, asking the community to take action on the behalf of the Wheaton Grand Theater, which could be torn down by its owner, the lender.
The Wheaton Grand Theater, which has gone into ownership of its lender is now under consideration for demolition, and Wheaton Chamber of Commerce member, Scott Pointner, asked the community to take action so that the decision for the future of the theater is in their hands. In a letter he sent to Chamber members and Wheaton residents yesterday, Tuesday, Nov. 9, he said that the board of the Wheaton Chamber has "long supported efforts to restore the Wheaton Theater as an important economic development tool for the City."
The letter continued to outline developments have occurred over the past few years that will impact the future of the builiding:
- Approximately eight years ago, the Grand Theater Corporation, the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation that owns the theater (the "GTC"), borrowed money to make critical repairs in order to save the building. Over the past three years, the GTC has been working with various governmental and community groups in an effort to put together the people, plans, and financing to restore the Theater. To date, the GTC has failed in its efforts to lead the various interested parties to agree on a plan, timetable, and financing package.
- While trying to put together a restoration plan that is acceptable to the involved parties, it fell behind on its mortgage payments. Approximately five months ago, the GTC deeded title of the property to the lender in lieu of suffering the additional costs and time of a foreclosure action. Due to a variety of issues related to needed repairs, potential liability, and the costs of carrying the property, the lender is in the process of considering whether or not to tear down the Wheaton Theater.
- This leads to the question: What can we do to help save this important piece of Wheaton's history and preserve this potential economic generator for the City?
First, the GTC suggests that we look at the positive things we have going for us:
The building still stands;
- We still have a not for profit corporation and board that is still active and ready to coordinate the assistance (time, ideas, money, etc.) of any of those that want to help;
- We still appear to have members of the City Council that have a desire to see the Theater restored, albeit with differing opinions on how much the City should do to help; and
- Most importantly, we do seem to have a Community that has the money, leadership skills, and experience to make this happen.
The GTC has asked the Community to come forward and take a leading role in helping to restore the Wheaton Theater, the letter said.
"Lenders can purchase the building at a reasonable moment ... It is not too late, but if the Theater is going to be saved, leaders must step forward," Pointner continued.
Groups willing to participate must do two things: obtain the money to purchase the theater back from the lender (or make tax deductible donations to the Grand Theater Corporation) so that the Community can regain control of it and avoid it being torn down; and, agree on a long-term plan to restore the theater.
City Councilman John Prendiville said that the theater is the "best economic development possibility we have for downtown. I think it's extremely important because of its location and potential."
Prendiville serves on a committee that works on behalf of the city to find a possible solution for the theater.
"That's something the government needs to be worried about if it's on the verge of demolition," he said, referring to Pointner's letter. The bank has marketed and counted estimates for demolition, he added. "I think they are serious, and to maintain it, they'd have to spend a fair amount of money."
The City hired a consultant to provide a report on the theater, which the committee has not finalized nor voted to accept.
Although there are differing opinions on the best use of the theater, Pointner said in his letter, the time that the community will be able to weigh in on these decisions is running out.
He concluded, "If a restoration plan that garners the necessary support from the Community is not agreed upon soon, it may not be long before the opportunity will be gone forever."