ROGERS PARK — It's big, ugly and no one wants it.
The infamous hole in the ground at North Clark Street and West Estes Avenue in Rogers Park that was once the Adelphi Theater has been untouched since 2008, when the housing market crashed and developers ran out of cash for a new condo development.
The property, now bank-owned, was to be auctioned in August with an opening bid of $425,000, but nervous developers pulled out at the last minute, according to Kelly Frank, the head of Auction Services Group, which is managing the sale of the property.
Bill Morton, president of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce, tried to save the Adelphi Theater before it was torn down for redevelopment.
"Before the demolition," Morton said, "I was trying to renovate the theater and open it up as a multipurpose facility."
From the sidewalk on Clark Street, passers-by can see broken glass and other debris more than 10 feet down to the concrete bottom of the hole.
To the south on Clark, four storefronts sit empty, another section of the neighborhood that struggles to attract business, Morton said.
Alexandra Nelson, who has lived in the neighborhood for 27 years, was walking past the property on a gusty, sunny afternoon in October.
She doesn't hold back her criticism: "They're going to hell for tearing down the Adelphi."
Nelson said she walked by "all the time," and would like to see the hole replaced with a community garden.
The art deco Adelphi was built in 1917. After closing briefly, the theater reopened in the mid-1980s as North Shore Cinema, closed down shortly thereafter and reopened again as the Adelphi Theater, showing Indian Bollywood features, according to the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society. The Adelphi closed for the last time in 2002 and was demolished in 2006.
Frank, from the auction company, said several buyers had shown interest in the site. "At some point," he said. "We’d like to think it's going to get sold."
Frank said the interests of prospective buyers ranged from condominiums to retail, but nothing had panned out.
"I'm almost famous for saying this," Morton said. "That hole in the ground needs to be a safe place first. For years now it’s had gang graffiti, broken glass ... Secondly, I feel it needs to be a used place, something akin to the Adelphi Theater."