A recent online survey asked community members what they wanted for the vacant downtown space.

Frequenters to downtown Hillsboro have passed by the empty windows of the Venetian Theatre for months waiting to see what will become of the theater which spent years bringing entertainment to the community. STEVE MORGAN - Community members were encouraged to fill out an online survey regarding future use of the vacant theater.

City leaders have been asking themselves that, too, and the once popular venue may soon be a theater no more.

The Venetian, 253 E. Main St., has been vacant for more than a year, after it shut its doors in April 2017 for what was supposed to be only a few weeks while ownership changed hands.

But when the sale fell through at the last minute, owner Denzill Sheller wasn't able to reopen.

Now, the bank is in ownership of the theater, Sheller said, and the city of Hillsboro is looking into options for making use of the empty space.

The city recently hired consultants to conduct an online survey, open to the public and shared via social media, on the future of the theater to determine what the community would like to see the space be used for.

The city is expected to release results of the survey in early August, according to Hillsboro spokesperson Patrick Preston.

The Venetian includes a 386-seat theater as well as a bistro-style eatery in an adjacent space. Sheller attempted to sell the business for years before he found a buyer.

But after the sale fell through, Sheller said he couldn't re-open the theater.

"We told our employees at least a month ahead of time what was going on, they all had new jobs lined up," Sheller told Pamplin Media Group last year. "Even if we wanted to, we couldn't re-open, we had nobody to work for us."

Sheller said he is against the idea of repurposing the space into something other than a theater and restaurant.

He said changing the Venetian's identity won't be beneficial to anyone, not only for maintaining its historic charm, but also for getting the most financially out of the space.

"We have had several appraisals of it over the years, every one of them said this is the highest and best use of this property," Sheller said. "I will be devastated if somebody doesn't come in and pick up the pieces ... and return it to what it was."

Sheller said the bank in ownership is currently working with a potential buyer who made a backup offer for the space.

"Hopefully that will work out," Sheller said. "In retrospect, what we should have done was turn it into a nonprofit, but everything was in such a rush at the time ... I was crushed when we had to close without a sale to start with ... I can't emphasize enough that I really think what it is, what we left, is the highest and best use of that property."

By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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