Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What about the Varsity?

I ran into Bob Streit (the "Lawrence Olivier of Southern Illinois") at a First Friday event last month -- the guy who used to head up the "SAVE" organization, devoted to saving the Varsity, (a Hugh Muldoon production), and while he's gone on to fix up property in other places -- most notably a yoga studio on Graham Street -- the Varsity building is steadily deteriorating. Another winter will make it worse.

Mayor Cole has tried to find a buyer, without success. Seems like no one is interested the "venerable venue" (quoting myself here). ;-) It can't be used as a first-run theater (by terms of the sale agreement with Kerasotes Theaters, which is too cheap to put a marquee of movies showing at the new "Showplace Theaters" behind the mall.)

So what can be done about the Varsity? Any suggestions? Can this blog spark some renewed activity? "V is for Varsity" is one of the chapters in my 'blook'-in-progress. Hate to end on a down note. Could saving the Varsity become an "issue" in the upcoming election?

Any (realistic) suggestions? I think the sale price was half a million dollars.


Unknown said...

Seems to me, in the big scheme of things, 500K isn't all that much for a business or organization with vision, and a desire to see a historic building preserved. I wonder how much needs to be put back into the facility to bring it up to code though, much less a substantial aesthetic upgrade.

You're right about Kerasotes ... cheap.

Hmmm ... a local micro-brewery ...? Anybody got 500 grand I can borrow?

Anonymous said...

I would like to see something along the lines of a movie tavern. A place that you can go see a movie and have something to eat at the same time. The one I have visited even brewed their own beer and root beer. It has been quite successful. Although it does show first run movies.

PeterG said...

My answer is to bulldoze the place and start again. The building isn't historic, just ugly. I spent some time fixing up a building that sat empty in Carbondale for a few years once, it is a heck of a lot of work and it didn't have a flat roof. There is no parking. You can't use it for movies. Second run movie houses have been killed by DVD's and HBO. It is a hole to throw money into. Did I mention there is no parking (and don't give me guff about the Amtrak lot across the street, that isn't good enough in today's world).

Until gas is $10/gallon and the students are walking again, it is worth less then the land value.

My prediction, after a while Kerasotes will get tired of the taxes and give it away. The question is what nonprofit around here has the cash to fix it up?

Anonymous said...

Is there a stage? Could it be repurposed as performance space somehow?

Cindy said...

I'm a fairly new member of the Jackson Cty.Stage Company. I know they've been looking into various venues since they lost their home theater. I think I heard that they have looked into buying & renovating the Varsity and found it way beyond their means financially.

Unknown said...

You're probably right, Peter. You have a way of putting things like this in perspective. The more I think about it, the more I think "money pit." I hadn't even considered the parking issue.

Maybe they should have put the new Gold's Gym in there instead of the old Eastgate Theatre location, recently vacated by So IL. Gymnastics ... if they can afford the bright yellow Hummer, they can afford to fix up the Varsity. HeHe.

Anonymous said...

Maybe CVS could go in there instead of over on Oakland. Though I like the Art Deco style of the building, it doesn't have the historic importance a building like the Cousins building does. CVS remodeling or pulling down the Varisty makes more sense and is less disruptive than going in on Oakland.

Anonymous said...

sthorne, you sound like a NIMBY!

Anonymous said...

So? Calling me a NIMBY doesn't make my comments any less valid. There are several places CVS could go into that are already zoned for business. The Varisty, the empty lot where Southern Recycling used to stand, the now closed Hardee's or the old Ducket's Game Station are all potnetially better sites than disrupting a residential area.

PeterG said...

If you read "Good to Great" one of the companies profiles is Walgreen's (a super performer). Turns out they want to be right in the neighborhood with the customers. CVS doesn't want to go downtown, they need to go right where they are trying to go to harvest that business. Locations matters and even a few blocks matters a lot according to Walgreen's.

The Hardee's location is screwed by the fast traffic, that is getting faster with the addition of the lane to the west, it is very small too. Dairy plant/Southern recycling is very thin because of setbacks on 3 sides, way to small for much of anything. Ducket's is a 4,000 sq foot building with a crazy landlord who ran off a great renter by jacking the rent. There is still no parking for the Varsity, so it doesn't really matter does it?

I wrote this in my blog the other day, that Oakland/Walnut corner is in play now and someone is going to build a business there eventually. It is the best retail corner in Carbondale that isn't built already. The best way to slow it down is to buy some property there and hold it. Maybe CVS will get zoning and maybe they will not, but this isn't over either way.

Calion said...

I meant to mention...a couple of weeks ago I was driving by the Varsity and saw some people loading theater seats onto a truck. Interesting.

By the way, to the earlier poster: Yes, there's a stage.