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Local News

Rialto Theatre board gets expensive to-do list

Scaffolding and plastic wrap around the parapet of the Rialto Square Theatre are signs of the need for repair at the theater built in 1926.
Scaffolding and plastic wrap around the parapet of the Rialto Square Theatre are signs of the need for repair at the theater built in 1926.

JOLIET – The Rialto Square Theatre needs more than a new marquee.

A handful of other projects amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars were mentioned last week at a Rialto board meeting where the marquee drew most of the attention.

“We may have to look at doing another capital campaign,” Rialto General Manager Randy Green said after the meeting when asked about the needed repairs.

Here is the to-do list discussed at the meeting of the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority, the board that oversees the theater built in 1926:

• Complete exterior work not included in the terra cotta project now underway at a cost of $400,000;

• Repair a chimney and ventilation system at a cost estimated between $150,000 and $200,000;

• Fix an elevator and make other repairs needed to make empty Rialto office space marketable at a price to be determined.

None of those projects are included in a proposed 2015 budget that shows a $207,000 deficit. The WCMEAA was to vote Wednesday on the budget, but it was tabled until a future date at the request of Green so the Rialto can look for answers to its $350,000 marquee problem.

Nearly $200,000 of work already had been done on the marquee, according to Green, before donor Ed Czerkies pulled back his contribution amid a controversy over whether his parents’ names should go on the sign. Whether that sign or any marquee is built has been put in the hands of a committee. But the Rialto has already spent $120,000 of Czerkies’ money on the sign in production, Green said.

Terra cotta challenge

There is some good news on the terra cotta work that already has run months longer than originally expected.

Work on the parapet should be completed next week, Building Manager Mike Biedron told the WCMEAA. Crews have been able to work this winter while trying to get the project done before the spring wedding season so scaffolding can be moved out.

Other terra cotta replacement on the exterior walls will be done once the weather warms up, Biedron said.

But once the exterior work is done, it won’t be complete.

Green said the Rialto exterior needed about $2.6 million worth of work but is being funded with a $2.2 million state grant. The Rialto at some point will have to find $400,000 to do more repairs, he said.

The chimney

The Rialto in March plans to seek bids on chimney work that is key to the theater’s heating and ventilation system. The work is estimated at between $150,000 and $200,000.

The interior lining of the chimney has deteriorated and needs to be replaced with a metal lining. Biedron said the project will include the replacement of a water heater at a cost of about $10,000.

The good news is that once the job is done, the repairs are expected to last for a long time.

“I can guarantee you,” Biedron told the authority, “that we’ll all be long gone before it needs to be done again.”

Rialto North

Not everyone knows it, but the Rialto property extends beyond the theater and into neighboring buildings rented out for office space.

The newly opened Midland States Bank branch at 100 N. Chicago St. is in space rented from the Rialto. The street-side office at the corner of Van Buren Street adds a new shine to the Rialto property.

But another section of office space called the Rialto North Building is badly in need of repair, Green said at the Wednesday meeting.

“Right now that property is not marketable because of repairs that need to be made,” Green said.

Green said the Rialto office space will be part of a study being down by the Camiros Consultant Group, hired by the city of Joliet to help prepare a downtown development plan.

The study, Green said, will focus on aging downtown properties where landlords do not have the financial wherewithal to make necessary improvements to attract tenants.

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