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August 26, 2012

Theater deserves support

Logansport’s leaders should take seriously the warnings of a local theater owner that a proposed new multiplex will put him out of business.

Council members voted Monday to give preliminary approval to changes in the city’s comprehensive plan and fringe area zoning map to allow development of the new theater south of High Street and west of Yorktown Road. They also named two new members to the Logansport Redevelopment Commission, a body that is poised to use tax dollars from the east-end tax increment financing district to pay off a bond for the project.

All of this comes in spite of a warning from Billy Alger, president of the board for the owners of the 72-year-old State Theater, that the business will shut down if the multiplex becomes a reality.

Alger contends the city’s incentive will net one full-time job. His business offers three, he said, and the new theater will bring four.

The city’s concern, though, should go beyond that trade-off in jobs.

The historic theater’s closing would leave a huge hole in Logansport’s central business district. Rather than helping him to make the old theater a jewel the city could be proud of, Alger says, the city’s incentive would be helping a competitor to put him out of business.

City leaders have said that is not their intent. They have said repeatedly that they are more than willing to work with Alger and that they have offered to provide him with incentives to help with his project.

Alger has said he’s not looking for incentives. He just wants an even playing field.

Some have suggested the city might be able to have its cake and eat it, too. Perhaps the city could lure the multiplex, they say, but help the old theater to succeed as well.

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