Roxy rebirth envisioned: Partnership, fundraiser set for Lockport theater
BY FRANK VAISVILAS Correspondent June 26, 2014 7:42PM
The marquee of the Roxy theater in Lockport is being spruced up with lights for a Saturday fundraiser. | Frank Vaisvilas/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 27, 2014 2:08AM
A fundraiser aimed at helping restore Lockport’s Roxy theater building to its former glory is set for Saturday, as a group of residents tries to determine community interest in the project while also solidifying a partnership with the building’s owner.
Previous city administrations have expressed interest in buying the downtown Roxy building from Trinity Services, a nonprofit agency that uses it for weekly social gatherings for its mentally disabled clients. But a partnership deal is in the works instead, because Trinity Services doesn’t want to sell.
“It’s always been a flagship for us,” Thane Dykstra, Trinity’s behavioral health director, said of the Roxy building, 1017 S. State St. “The Roxy is an ideal location for people to build relationships and socialize.”
The theater long ago was converted into a bar and grill, and Trinity has maintained that interior appearance since buying the building 19 years ago.
Trinity’s use of a nonalcoholic bar as a social club for mentally disabled people has made headlines in recent years, including as a feature story on National Public Radio.
City officials have called the building “underutilized,” but Trinity is not looking to sell.
Dykstra said he appreciates current Lockport Mayor Steve Streit’s approach of partnering with Trinity in using the Roxy for occasional community events.
“We thought that was pretty cool,” Dykstra said.
Streit said he’s not interested in the city buying the Roxy building because he “respects what Trinity does” and because, he said, he sees how other suburbs have struggled to maintain or redefine their downtown historic theaters.
With Trinity as the owner, Streit said the city doesn’t have to worry about selling enough tickets and yet it still will get to use the building via the partnership for occasional events or during festivals.
The building dates to 1850, and local historians believe it was first used as a warehouse and had an adjacent horse stable.
Reno Caneva, a longtime Lockport resident and local historian, said the Cain family operated the Roxy as a movie theater from the 1940s through the 1960s and the building was very popular in its day.
“It’s our heritage,” Streit said. “Some people remember it as kids.”
Renee Lang, who chairs a citizens committee that wants to renovate the Roxy, wants to resurrect its popularity and envisions a line to get into the building for Saturday’s event.
She said when she and her husband moved to Lockport from Chicago’s Logan Square about a year ago they realized that Lockport needed a prominent theater.
Lang was not alone, as she and about a half-dozen other residents sent emails to Streit about a year ago inquiring about the Roxy and he encouraged them to form the committee.
“It won’t be a city-run (budget) item,” Streit said. “We’re just facilitating. It’s really citizen-driven.”
But the city did approve a $5,000 facade grant to help pay to restore the Roxy’s marquee sign.
Workers were out Thursday installing lights around the marquee ahead of Saturday’s event.
The city provides matching grants to downtown business owners who spruce up their building. Streit said the value of Trinity’s renovation work merited a matching grant.
Lang said Saturday’s fundraising efforts will include two events.
The first is a Kids Art Party from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and includes a viewing of the film “Hugo,” face-painting, a photo booth and concessions.
The second event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. and is a BYOB “Brew and View” which also includes the movie “Hugo.”
Lang said the kids event is $10 at the door and the BYOB event is $15, cash only.
The movie will be shown on a 12-foot-by-10-foot projector screen borrowed from a school.
Two other community events are being planned for this summer at the Roxy, but Lang said she wants to gauge how Saturday’s event goes before promoting those.