I applaud the village board for giving the Colt building a reprise. I would like to suggest that the building be saved and retrofitted at minimum cost to be used as an arts center. Because of its stylish architecture and interior design, the two parts of the building would be attractive and conducive to performing and graphic artists as office, gallery, rehearsal, and performance space. Arts groups routinely retrofit their own spaces for their own needs, and people of that ilk possess the requisite skills. I can imagine brightly painted walls, hanging tapestries, and banners strung across Lake Street heralding opening nights, visiting artists, and special events.

Bringing the various arts groups together would yield unimagined synergy. For one, the associated groups could apply for and obtain arts grants as an entity, rather than dissipating the efforts of the various groups working independently. One street level space could be a revenue-generating ticket office for both local and Chicago-area venues. Another could be a revenue-generating gift store, featuring the obligatory Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway offerings as well as works of art, music, and literature by other locals. How about “Frank and Ernest’s Gift Shop” (the comic strip by that name was indeed named for Wright and Hemingway). The central portion could be removed and replaced by the congenial pedestrian way which existed there until the 1950s. That pedestrian way could then be a site for art fairs and street performances.

Clearly, such a center would be attractive to tourists, whose foot traffic would aid Lake Street retailers and restaurants. It would be a destination.

In short, the refurbished building possesses some of the attributes that we have suggested for the Restaurant Park-Cultural Center at Ontario and Harlem. It’s an artifact of the 1930s that should be preserved and effectively utilized.

Les Golden
Oak Park

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