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Circa 21 asks Rock Island For Help

Rock Island may help a long-time downtown business preserve and renovate its buildings. Monday night, aldermen will consider giving some revenue from the city's tax increment financing district to Circa 21 Dinner Theater.

Owner Denny Hitchcock says Circa 21 and the Speakeasy next door need improvements totalling 350,000 dollars. And city staff are recommending contributing 200,000 dollars.

"On the second floor of Circa 21 we have eleven 14-foot windows with virtually no caulking and rotted wood. Not only is it unsightly from the outside, but it's really cold on the inside."

The theater's air conditioning system was installed in 1952, and several performances were cancelled last year when it broke down. Another trouble spot is the roof.

"It's roughly 30 by 80 feet and it's leaking, causing a loss of plaster on walls and ceilings backstage, leaking near electronic equipment, near lights, electronic outlets, and now little pieces of plaster are starting to fall on the stage."

Hitchcock says the Speakeasy is 116 years old, and Circa 21 is 95 years old.

The proposed agreement with the city calls for Circa to begin working on these improvements no later than April, and have all the work done within four years (2017).