Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Varsity Arts

In his State of City speech to the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce this afternoon, Mayor Brad Cole announced that Kerasotes Theaters is donating the building to the City, which will then work with the Stage Company and other arts organizations to convert the venerable venue into a first-class community arts center.

Kewl. Since most events should be in the evening or weekend, parking shouldn't be much of a problem.
Finally the vision that SAVE had for the Varsity may come true.
Excellent, wonderful news!
Did the mayor explain how the city intends to pay for the upkeep? Or will yet another of our city's historic landmarks slip into disrepair? No offense to the Stage Company, but we can't just say they'll pick up the tab. It's presumptuous to think they'll have enough long term support to keep the building up to snuff and if they had that kind of support, we wouldn't have lost another old landmark.

I'm really please Keresotes finally parted with it, but I want to know what the plan is for preventing dilapidation.

Another sales tax increase should do the trick.
From an email I received, it appears that Kerasotes has done a better job of maintaining the interior than I had heard. That should reduce the necessary money for renovations some.
A professional appaisal has been completed that the Mayor referred to as being high. $600,000.00!
I do not think that Keresote is giving the Varsity to the city but the Mayor has got them to agree to give it to a willing not for profit. The city does not want another building to maintain, so the Mayor is out looking for a non profit to assume the building.
Hmmmm I wonder who can really afford it?
I love it that Keresotes has given it up. It is REALLY IMPORTANT that a good business minded manager is in charge of the building, minding the creative energies. Otherwise,
the building will be too much of a financial and maintenance burden for the largely volunteer based not for profits. What ever group takes this on must decide to make the Varsity the most important part of what they do. Everything they do will need to directly benefit the support of the building. This is a real change of thinking for most not for profits in Carbondale.
In the end the Mayor will look good. He talked keresote's out of the building and he found a not for profit to take it. That not for profit gets the blame for failure but you can bet the Mayor will take the bulk of the credit for it's success.
Now how smart will all the parties proceed?
Will it be like the Attucks building that I will be will never be anything other than what it is now? Or, will a real plan emerge?
The reclaiming of the Varsity could be a great success or it could be the death of an organization and still an empty building.
Parking is more of a problem on evening and weekends. Talk to the Hanger or Dairy Queen.
Scott, I've long been under the impression that Keresotes has been a good neighbor. My question is what the long term plans are for upkeep here. Since the Stage Company won't get the lease, why should they invest in long term maintance? Wouldn't they just pay rent, like any other tenant does? If so, what guarantee do we have that the city is interested in and has the money to maintain the building or to do the necessary rennovations?

Like I said, I'm glad the building will be put to use and having art-related activities is probably the best possible scenario. That doesn't put my concerns about this to rest one little bit.
If the mayor gave out bricks of gold, you people would probably complain about how heavy they were.

Cole has created the opportunity for groups like Stage company and the African American Museum of Southern Illinois -- as an example -- to get into buildings that hold historical significance to them.
But at some point indidivual responisbilty of these groups -- and residents at large -- has to kick in.
Frankly, the opportunity is there for groups like SAVE to make their wildest dreams come true.
Don't start kicking the mayor because he's giving them a chance.

Poor bloggers, Cole just keeps taking away things to whine about. Get back to work.
If Brad Cole is such a wonderful preservationist, riddle me this...why was the Stage Company's old building allowed to deteriorate without his administration stepping in? Why have they not required the owner of the old high school to ensure that it doesn't require being torn down (which it probably does now)? How about letting the Tuscan Lodge and the Attucks School Building become dilapidated? Call me crazy, but one victory amongst tons of losses doesn't strike me as anything but 1) at best minimal success and 2) a symbolic gesture to get everyone off his behind about the multitude of failures.

Or, maybe you're just bought off easy. I'll be impressed when he actually starts having city code enforced. You know, the laws. The ones *already on the books* that he has conveniently ignored for years now.
The Stage Company's "building" belonged to the bank. It was private property.

As for the high school, that is under the jurisdiction of another governmental body called: the school district.

The Attuck's building was wrangled away from a former property owner approximatly 2 years ago, who let the building fall into disarry. The city has extended a $1 per year lease to the African American Museum, which needs to raise like a $1M to renovate it.

The historic Tuscan Lodge belongs to the African-American Masonic Order, who has owned the building since 1903. The group has had at least 16 benefits to raise money for the restoration of the facility.

So Gadfly, unless you are adovcating the City of Carbondale use eminate domain to swoop up everyone else's property -- I don't see your point.

And while we're at it, Gadfly: YOU embody the cynicism that rots away pride in the city. People like you have turned their back to numberous efforts made by your fellow residents who try, but struggle, to raise funds or awareness for the buildings you claim to hold so dear.

I'll side with success every time, no matter how small. I loathe failure and those who seek it for others.
Regardless of past issues (and trust me, I know of LOTS of past issues) what we all should be focusing on the fact that something is being done with the Varsity. I still believe now as I did back then that the Varsity has the potential of being an anchor for the downtown area and a way to boost the arts community in Carbondale and southern Illinois in general.

In speaking with some of my friends and colleagues, like Kevin Clark, there are some of us that would still love to help out in some fashion. I would love to hear from the Mayor what the business plan actually is. SAVE came up with a plan for the building (live theater, some film potential depending on the stipulations from Kerasotes, music events, etc). SAVE was working up to the acquisition costs (if I remember correctly it was somewhere around $350k - $400k) but the renovation costs were a huge hurtle (I think it was above $1Mil). The city has worked out the acquisition but beyond that there is a lot that would need to be done.
Yes, those buildings belong to other people. No, I'm not suggesting we use eminent domain to take them over. In fact, I don't trust the city to do a decent job for the basic reason that their failure to enforce building codes is the reason they become run-down in the first place. (I would've used it for the American Tap, but that's a different matter.)

But even if the properties are privately owned, the *city* still enforces the building codes. You know...the ones that all property owners are supposed to live up to. Since we see dilapidated buildings owned by more than one person/corporation, why is it so difficult to believe that the problem here is the city's failure to make owners live up to their responsibilities? We do have laws on the books regarding this afterall. For example, the city basically forced the bulldozing of Blyer Field. Why must we wait for a murder to protect our neighborhoods and our history? I simply don't see any reason.

But let's assume for a moment that the city will own the Varsity. Who is to say that when the budget gets tight (which all budgets inevitably do, even when they are well planned), what is more likely to get deferred -- community project or building maintenance? If we can take SIU as an example here, you'll see that its pretty easy to put off maintenance.

Am I cynical? Only with respect to certain people and subjects. This happens to be one of them. Go pick up a book on Carbondale architecture (there actually is such a thing, believe it or not). You'll see that the vast majority of historic buildings in this town have been allowed to run down and, eventually, torn down. Indeed, in the years I have lived here the only clear reclamation projects I can recall are 1) the Boys and Girls Club and 2) the Newell House. I'll stop being cynical about the city's lax enforcement of its own rules when, geez, they actually do it.

I too loathe failure. That's precisely *why* I don't trust the city here and want to see some specifics. They haven't earned that kind of trust on these issues. (They have elsewhere in my opinion.)

Am I constantly cynical? Nope, you can see that I am a strong supporter of District 95 in another thread. I'm also involved in about four community organizations that are not political in nature but, rather, work to affect change in their neighborhoods. I'm sorry, but cynics don't do that so you'll have to find another way to discredit my opinion, especially since the facts are on my side on this one.
Have there really been 16 benefits for the Tuscan Lodge building, as *Anonymous* claims?
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