Updated: January 21, 2013 3:50PM
ST. CHARLES — When the St. Charles City Council voted Monday to buy the vacant George’s Sporting Goods building, at 107-109 E. Main St., that may have been the first step toward expanding the services available at the adjoining privately owned Arcada Theatre.
The Poczekaj family closed the George’s store earlier this year, after more than 40 years in business in downtown St. Charles. The Arcada is owned by Ron Onesti, who books it weekly with concerts, many by big-name acts.
City spokeswoman Lisa Garhan said in a statement that city officials had been interested for many years in acquiring the building. She said the Poczekaj family decided that at this stage in their lives, the mounting maintenance demands of the building made now an opportune time to sell.
She said the building has been in a state of disrepair for some time and is consistently cited by the Downtown St. Charles Partnership as a property in need of refurbishment. Aside from the obvious maintenance needs to the exterior, structural deficiencies inside the building also exist.
“While demolition is certainly an option,” she said, “the city hopes to rehabilitate and adapt the building for an alternative use, preferably as an annex to the adjacent Arcada Theatre.”
Magnet for visitors
Mayor Donald DeWitte touted the purchase as a wise investment in the future of St. Charles.
“There is no question that the Arcada Theatre is an asset in our downtown,” DeWitte said.
“It has long been a landmark property and has served as a cultural and entertainment center for over 85 years. The facility has served the city well, and I look forward to continuing that fine tradition.”
A recent study conducted by the city indicates that the Arcada generates about $2 million in economic activity annually through direct, indirect and induced spending, and creates 30 jobs. But the report also cites a lack of modern amenities as a major impediment to improved performance. The report concluded that the historical 1920s-era theater could use meeting and pre-function space, modern restrooms, better concessions facilities and other complimentary uses.
“The city hopes to work in partnership with other stakeholders to address those issues and thereby enhance the overall economic vitality of the facility,” Garhan said.
Sources of funds
The purchase will be paid for with about $230,000 in funds from other capital projects that came in below budget, and from projects that do not need to be completed this year.
St. Charles Economic Development Director Chris Aiston said he sees the purchase as something that could pay dividends in the future.
“The Arcada draws patrons to shop, dine and stay in our hotels,” Aiston said. “Restaurants cite the venue as something that pushes additional business through their doors, whenever performances are held. We hope to expand that to create even more economic activity and further expand the tax base.”
The transaction is expected to close before the end of the year.