CROWN POINT — The new owner of the Crown Theater hopes the arts he brings to the long-vacant building will make it vibrant again.
Those fresh activities also are expected to enrich the downtown square and add to its growing street life.
Crown Theater's new owner, Brad Strom, previously worked for the now-shuttered Star Plaza Theatre. His plan is to fill the entertainment void left in the Region when that venue closed in December.
"We are a great addition to what the square already has to offer," Strom said. "There is no telling what this can do."
Strom's plans for Crown Theater include making it a venue for comedy, small concerts and live theater including for children, and a place to screen independent films.
He said it is hard to gauge what the economic impact will be, but he is confident it will be great for the square.
"We are not coming in and stepping on anyone’s toes," he said. "We are not a bar, we are not a restaurant. This is the missing piece to the square's puzzle."
Local restaurant owners 'should be thrilled'
Speros A. Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, said when it is time for Strom to start promoting in the community and to bring in visitors, "we'll be there."
"We are excited for Brad," he said. "I wish him all the success possible. That place has been not only an eyesore, but its vacancy (also) has thwarted the economic opportunities that abound on the square. If I was a restaurant owner in downtown Crown Point, I'd be thrilled.
Just a few months ago, Chris Pappas opened Provecho Latin Provisions in the former Tequila Restaurante building on the east side of the square.
"We welcome Brad with open arms to the downtown square," Pappas said. "We are happy that this landmark piece in our square found an owner that can take advantage of its full potential."
Pappas said there is excitement in having another property on the square redeveloped for the benefit of making the community a more diverse and better place to call home.
"We will be here to support Brad in any way possible," he said.
Carrie Napoleon, spokeswoman for the Lake County Court House Foundation, said she is excited to see the empty building next to the historic Lake County Courthouse get a new life. She said the influx of more people downtown to see shows at Crown Theater will be a benefit to the businesses and restaurants on the lower level Courthouse Shops and around the square.
"There has been a lot of work on the businesses and facades on the east side of the square," she said. "Having a long-vacant building like the theater come back to life will hopefully spur more improvements on the west side of the square so it is equally inviting."
Dinner package and brewery tour partnerships?
Dave Bryan, owner of Crown Brewing, said it will be great for the square and local businesses to have a newly vibrant theater downtown. Bryan said he plans to reach out to Strom and discuss arranging brewery tours and craft beer tastings with people attending shows at the theater.
Strom said he looks forward to partnerships like that and, for instance, partnering with restaurants to couple dinner packages with theater ticket sales to make for "a great night out." He said it could work similarly with bars and making them a post-show stop for theatergoers.
As a longtime employee of the Star Plaza Theatre, Strom said he can assure the neighboring businesses that everyone loved show nights.
"That’s what we’re aiming for downtown Crown Point," he said.
Since Mayor David Uran broke the news last week about the new ownership of Crown Theater, Strom said he has received a never-ending flow of calls, texts and emails.
"It actually got to the point where I had to turn my phone off just so i could eat dinner with my wife and kids," he said.
"But I’m not bothered by that at all — this is exactly the response any business owner would love to have. It sure seemed like the majority of people were excited, and they should be. We are going to bring something special to downtown."