Des Plaines Theatre restoration at standstill
DES PLAINES, IL — In 2003, when brothers Dhitu and Dharmesh Bhagwakar purchased the Des Plaines Theatre in downtown Des Plaines, from a bank which planned to raze the historic landmark in this Chicago suburb and build a drive-thru bank on the site, there was great relief and optimism for the former movie palace.
The Des Plaines Theatre Preservation Society partnered with the building’s new owners, who allowed the group to hold classic film screenings and special events in the twinned theater, while Bollywood features also were screened at the theater. In return for free rent, the Society did volunteer repair work on the old theater, including restoring the Art Deco marquee, plasterwork, and fixing seats, tiles and the restrooms.
As of around six months ago, the Bhagwakars told the Society it would have to start paying rent to continue using the theater, and when the Society declined to pay rent, its repairs and use of the theater began to end.
It is estimated a full restoration of the Des Plaines would cost around $5 million to return the theater to its 1920’s look. The theater has qualified to be named to the National Register of Historic Places, but since that time, the owners have refused to allow the listing to be made official.
Dhitu Bhagwakar says that he appreciates the theater’s historical significance, but says also that the theater has tripled in value since he and his brother acquired it. In any case, they do not plan on selling the Des Plaines.
In 2004, the City Council rejected a $60,000 pricetag on a study to gauge community support for a performing arts center. City Manager Dave Niemeyer says, “A successful, lively theater would certainly be an asset downtown, but the question is, who is going to finance it?”
For more visit the article in the Chicago Tribune.