HIGHLAND — A preliminary design for the Town Theatre's renovation is due in about a week.
The Town Theatre Board of Directors also learned that some of the exterior walls of the 70-year-old theater may be replaced because of the new roof needed over the auditorium area.
Greg Kuzmar, president of the Redevelopment Commission, said it has contracted with Morris Architects Planners for the five phases of renovation: schematic design, design development, construction documents, bidding and construction administration.
With the first phase due at the end of next week, the commission will make suggestions for Morris to include in the next phase.
"Each of the first three phases will also include an update to the cost of the work," Kuzmar said. "They'll continue to tailor it to the budget."
He also noted that the costs, so far, "didn't represent a significant departure from the budget."
Kuzmar said the existing rear outside wall includes several shed-like additions.
These additions, along with the wall, will probably be removed and replaced with a new wall that can support the new auditorium roof, he said.
Likewise, both exterior side walls would be replaced along the auditorium to accommodate the new roof.
The commission is awaiting bids for this "selective demolition," Kuzmar said.
If the new walls and roof are built, federal code will require them to be earthquake proof, Redevelopment Director Cecile Petro said.
Inside the auditorium, the existing stage will probably be rebuilt and extended all the way back to the new rear wall.
Kuzmar added the engineers have not yet determined if structural changes are needed for the two adjacent buildings being incorporated into the renovated theater.
"As soon as we know more, we'll share it," Petro said.
The directors were eager to know when the whole project might go before the Town Council.
"We can't get traction until that happens," Director Bruce Leep said.
There is no solid timeline yet, Kuzmar said, but it is possible the project might be ready for presentation in four or five months.
At that juncture, the council would give either thumbs up or down on going forward with the renovation, he said.
The original budget estimate for the construction, not including the new roof, interior furnishings, acoustics and a digital projector, was $1.9 million.
Petro also said the town should receive a report in early March on the arts and cultural district proposed for the theater area.
The report is being done by SEH of Indiana through a $30,000 grant that Highland received from the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission, Kuzmar said.
It will suggest how the streets might look, where open spaces might go and the best positioning for arts and craft businesses, Petro said.
The triangular shaped area is bordered by LaPorte Avenue at its north end, Highway Avenue at the south, Kennedy Avenue on the east and the bike trail on the west.
"This is major movement," Director Michael Maloney said. "This is good."