Will the historic Hall Theatre end up vacant for 10 years?

The restaurant Panera Bread has occupied the majority of the historic Hall Theatre since 2005, and will be closing that location at the end of this year.

This could be bad news for Ninth Street and the Hall Theatre.

The building, the article notes, is owned by Stan Kroenke of The Kroenke Group. This is the same organization that owned the building on Providence Road that once housed the Osco Drug Store, a building which remained vacant from 2004 until now. Lucky’s Farmers Market is renovating it now to open as a grocery, set for opening in 2014.

The key to saving a building is to keep it occupied and working. Let’s hope Stan Kroenke of The Kroenke Group takes action.

What do you think should be in that building? If you’d like to share your thoughts, comment below or contact the owner via the nearly blank Facebook page for The Kroenke Group and the website for The Kroenke Group.

The soon to be former Panera Bread building is still emblazoned with the name Hall Theatre, which was built in 1916 for $65,000, an amount equal to $1.3 million in 2009 dollars, according to this article published in 2010 in the Columbia Business Times about the history of movie theatres in Columbia.

At one time, Ninth Street sported three theatres, the Hall, the Varsity  (now the Blue Note), the Missouri Theatre (now operated by the University of Missouri-Columbia). In fact, in the 1930s, Columbia boasted roughly 3,500 theatre seats in a town of roughly 15,000 people. At the time of the Columbia Business Times article, 2010, the city had 4,277 theatre seats for a population of more than 100,000 people.

What happened? Radio. Cars. Television. People found other things to do with their time than to head downtown to a movie. Or two. Or three a week. At one time, businessmen would go to the movies during lunch, school children would escape classes to see a flick and downtown was the place to be.

Those days of so many theatres are gone, but let’s hope Columbia residents don’t face 10 years of a vacant historic theatre on Ninth Street.

What do you think should go into this historic building?