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Art house theater reopening gaining traction in Highland

Highlofficials hope revive Town Theatre which has been closed since 2008. | Jane Bokun/For Post-Tribune

Highland officials hope to revive the Town Theatre, which has been closed since 2008. | Jane Bokun/For the Post-Tribune

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HIGHLAND — After she removed a rowdy raccoon family living in the now-closed Town Theatre in Highland last month, Cecile Petro knew she would have her hands full.

Petro is the redevelopment director for the town, which recently paid the overdue property taxes on the Town Theatre — a funky, 1940-era movie house that has shown foreign and American films for the past 68 years. To those who loved it best, the movies were always punctuated by a mid-film break to serve free coffee and cake from a neighboring bakery.

Now, the inside of the theater is in disrepair — coated with dirt and facing foundation problems and, possibly, more serious obstacles, such as asbestos.

“We’re removing practically everything,” Petro said. “It’s practically being gutted..”

Petro said the city eventually hopes to reopen the Town for movies, concerts and more — maybe next year.

“Right now we’re in the middle of a study to find out how much it will cost to renovate the theater,” she said.

The theater, which contained original seats and even replicas of knights in armor, was closed five years ago when owners Ted and Verna Janowski, retired. Petro said she has not heard from them.

The hope, said Petro, is that the city can take over the building altogether. But for now, the city basically has lien status.

If it does reopen, it may be as a non-profit. The city paid $16,791.92 in back-taxes earlier in the year. But, under terms of a county tax sale, a property owner is given a chance to retain the property if the take action within one year of the tax sale date. The Janowskis have not contacted the city as yet.

Meanwhile, the campaign to save the Town Theatre and its surrounding area is building steam.

Maria Curiel, owner of next door restaurant, Maria’s Buena Cocina, said she can’t wait for the theater to reopen.

“Every little bit helps people to get to know the area,” Curiel said.

The Highland Main Street Committee meets the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Highland Town Hall to discuss renovation efforts and more.

The next meeting is &:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Town Hall, 3333 Ridge Road. Meetings are open to the public and those who may want to get involved in the theater’s renovation.

Petro said the group will not be at the point where it is asking for money for the Town until results are in from the construction study.

Tony Machowski, sitting in the nearby Franco’s Pizza, located in back of the Town Theatre, said he hopes the theater is revitalized.

“It’s good for the community,” Machowski said. “It has an old town feel and it’s good family fun.”

Others in the area are making the assumption that the Town Theatre will reopen.

“We remodeled for the reopening,” said Marisol Bustos, a worker at nearby Cakes By Karen off Kennedy Avenue in Highland. “We were looking old-schoolish and we needed a more modern look.”

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