by Michael R. Allen
Earlier this week, the Alton Historical Commission heard testimony on an application to designate the Grand Theater (1920) at 230 Market Street as a city landmark. This application is controversial because the application is opposed by the building’s owner — and because the status would create public review of demolition. City landmark designation is always the highest form of building protection. Bill McKenzie, head of a citizens group that wants to find a new use for the theater, made the application. Owner Ed McPike opposes the designation and thinks the building is unworthy. Beyond structural problems he admits have developed during his ownership, McPike assets that the theater — refaced in the 1930s — is not architecturally distinguished. McPike purchased the Grand to rehabilitate it but has given up his efforts.
The Commission has a month to make a decision. From an Alton Telegraph story by Linda Weller, “Panel to decide if old Grand Theatre is landmark”:
City ordinance allows 30 days for commissioners to make a decision, which can be appealed to the City Council. Commission Chairman Doug Bader said he does not know when the commission will convene for the vote.
At stake is that anyone wanting to renovate, add on to or demolish a city landmark must submit the plans to the city’s Building and Zoning Department. The commission would review the plans and must recommend that Alton issue a certificate of compliance before work can begin.