At St. Joseph County Public Library, we believe in the value of history preservation but we also acknowledge that sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to save a building that, for all intents and purposes, is already gone. The Avon Theatre is literally a shell. The interior was gutted long before the Library purchased it and the lower portion of the building was stripped of any exterior decoration or ornamentation. The section that faces the alley has loose bricks, which will become a hazard as they begin to fall. What’s left of the upper terra cotta facade has chips and nicks in the surface.
It would not be too much of a stretch to say that the Avon would need at least a million dollars to restore.
Even in its heyday, the Avon was never the architectural gem that defined the Palais, which underwent a $17 million dollar renovation in 2000. South Bend once boasted at least three other theatres with architectural significance: the State, the Colfax and the Granada. Of these, only the State is left and its fate is uncertain.
By demolishing the Avon now, SJCPL continues to prepare for the eventual renovation or replacement of its Main Library. The planned parking lot is but one step in clearing the land for new construction. SJCPL has long struggled to provide adequate parking for patrons and staff. Last year over half a million visitors came through our front doors. Most of them needed a place to park.
We anticipate that this project will actually improve the appearance of the library block. It will showcase the newly renovated Ciao’s restaurant with an opening planned for later in the year and it will open better vistas in the downtown. Instead of staring at empty crumbling structures, you’ll see a clean expanse with landscaping. We hope you’ll continue to follow our progress as we plan future library improvements.