BARRINGTON, IL-Village officials in this affluent northwest suburb of Chicago could hire an appraiser Monday to determine the value of the historic Catlow theater and explore forming a not-for-profit corporation to own and operate it. Trustees also may purchase an option on the property, at a cost likely to crack six figures, buying time for the not-for-profit corporation to raise the cost of buying and rehabbing the Downtown moviehouse.

The 75-year-old Catlow has been on the market since late summer, but no takers have been found at its $2-million-plus asking price. Northfield, IL-based National Realty Network broker Kris Keller no formal offers have been received, though he has had a “lot of discussions with a lot of different people.”

An area resident who has sat in on meetings concerning the theater’s future, Keller welcomes the possibility of a village-backed purchaser.

“Saving the Catlow to me has to be the biggest no-brainer the village of Barrington has ever had,” Keller tells “Think about what’s happening to businesses in Downtown Barrington. The Downtown is hurting. If you were to add live performances, with 300 or 400 people going to them on a Friday or Saturday night, people would go out to restaurants, too. You add that many people wandering around Downtown Barrington, there’s not one single thing they could do that’s better than this.”

In addition to buying the property, worth at least $1 million according to one appraisal, the new owner would need to spend upwards of $8 million to rehab the landmark building if they wanted to retain its historic value, according to a report commission by the village from Daniel P. Coffey & Associates. Obviously, that hasn’t helped Keller’s marketing effort. “It spells out a lot of things that a private investor would not do,” Keller says. “It kind of scares people off, too.”

In addition to the 700-seat theater and lobby that are on the Historical Register of National Places, the property also includes three apartments on the second floor as well as retail spaces occupied by a sandwich shop and a dentist. However, the property also includes historical furniture, statues, art and woodwork, which the owner may decide to sell off piecemeal if a buyer does not surface soon, Keller says.

Keller adds the owner had two appraisals done on the property before listing it – one for the real estate, the other for the historically significant personal property, much of it the work of architect Alfonso Ianelli, inside.

Added up, the two appraisals amounted to the $2.015 listing price, Keller says, adding, “We did not pull this number out of the air.”

After hearing a report from the Committee to Save the Historic Catlow, trustees agreed to consider obtaining their own appraisal of the property as well as forming a not-for-profit corporation at their meeting Monday night. They also may have a better idea on the price of the option. A not-for-profit corporation or civic authority is considered the best chance for the Catlow to remain a venue for the performing arts, says Jim Wallace, Barrington’s director of building and planning.

A verbal offer of $1.5 million by local group that sought to establish a senior and teen center, coffeehouse and stage performance at the building at 114 W. Main St. was rejected earlier this year by its owner, Catlow Partnership. Banquet hall operators also have inquired about the property, Keller says.

If a private party buys the theater, the Committee to Save the Historic Catlow fears they will not have the wherewithal to make the needed renovations, and will feel financial pressure to convert the 14,500-sf building into other uses. Also, a public-private partnership was rejected because it posed an unacceptable level of risk and expense to village taxpayers.

While other suburban Downtown theaters have seen their screens fade to black with the arrival of megaplexes, the one-screen Catlow has survived with second-run movies and modest $4 admissions. The fate of the Catlow remains an emotional issue with residents, with 2,000 of them signing a petition urging the theater continue as a film or live performance venue.

“It’s an indication that support is there,” says Trustee Tim Dunn. “This could be a real anchor for Downtown Barrington.”

Although preservation of the Catlow could lure new restaurants and other retail uses to the area, as well as raise Downtown property values, Trustee Jeanne Yeagley questioned whether the issue should be put to voters in a referendum.

However, the next referendum is not until March. By then, the historical architectural items may have been sold, Keller says. “We want to cooperate with the village,” he adds.

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