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Al Hollenbeck's Letter to the Editor: Vote Yes on Wheaton Grand Theater

Hollenbeck says "let's keep our options open," by voting yes on the Wheaton Grand Theater referendum.

On April 5, Wheaton voters have the opportunity to make an important decision. This decision is extremely important to the long-term viability of Downtown Wheaton, however; it should not be a difficult one.

Voting Yes means:

-       We provide the Wheaton City Council the direction to continue to explore all reasonable options for the redevelopment of this historic property.

-       TIF taxes—not general fund property taxes—will most likely provide the $150,000 in public funding.

-       The opportunity for Downtown Wheaton to become a center of cultural entertainment with a higher quality of life can become a reality.

Voting No means:

-       The likelihood of the City Council pursuing any public/private partnerships for theater redevelopment decreases.  

-       The likelihood of demolition—adding another vacant property to downtown—increases.  

The current reality:

-       No other option for maintaining the viability of Downtown is on the table.

-       Every major development in downtown Wheaton in the last 10 + years has had public funding support; either through TIF funds or infrastructure improvements.

-       The rehabilitation of historic buildings typically requires public funding, both here in DuPage County and Nationwide.

-       The theater redevelopment has the potential to bring tax dollars to Wheaton from visitors outside of Wheaton.

-       Voting yes does not commit the City to a redevelopment option.

As a property owner and business owner of a non-retail business in downtown Wheaton, I am prepared to continue to pay TIF property taxes to maintain the viability of Downtown Wheaton. The Wheaton Grand Theater is a unique historic resource; this is not the time for an unnecessary “do nothing” vote.

Please take advantage of more details at www.TheFriendsOfTheTheater.org

Jill Lewaniak March 16, 2011 at 01:00 PM
I say VOTE NO!!!! If the theatre is going to work it should be funded privately. I'm not interested in any of my tax dollars going to this project nor am I interested in the programs that may be offered as there are other locations very, very, very close to us that we SHOULD use. AND we have not realized anything from a few of our more recent TIFS. Wheaton taxpayers would again be on the hook for another ill-planned project. VOTE NO!!!!
Kathy March 16, 2011 at 03:02 PM
I agree with Jill. I have lived in Wheaton since 1983 and have seen the many changes of this private business, and that is just what it is, period. Taxpayers dollars need to only go to where it will do the most good, for the most people. This business has a very limited scope of who it will truly help if it should be successful - and it is those few people who should foster it, not ask all of the hard working taxpayers to do it for them.
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) March 16, 2011 at 06:35 PM
Thank you both for sharing your opinions. Hopefully everyone can educate themselves on the referendum before Apr. 5.
DavidH March 20, 2011 at 09:20 PM
I was wondering. If the community of Wheaton had the opportunity to attract a 10-screen, first-run, for profit movie cinema to downtown Wheaton that would be owned and operated by a well established and successful operator, and that operator was willing to invest a significant amount of his own money into the project but needed some assistance from the City due to the high cost of construction in the downtown area and further, required additional public parking to be build in downtown, does anyone think the citizens of Wheaton would support the upcoming ballot initiative if it was backed by a solid plan to achieve this particular goal? I would appreciate comments from Wheaton residents. Thank you!
Richard W March 27, 2011 at 07:13 PM
I am also a Wheaton resident of long standing. To DavidH's query: No. First, the type of theatre complex he proposes--hopefully theoretically--is already an uneconomic proposition, given recent trends in the industry. Second, there is not enough parking surrounding the present Grand Theatre to service such a complex; and the land cost associated with providing it would be prohibitive. But the bigger issue is whether or not we should be extending such tax largesse at the present time, in these present times. And the answer for me is, again, no.

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