A downtown West Dundee building that once housed a grocery store and later a hardware store is on the road to becoming a regional performing arts center.
Rick Browne, a local architect and actor, has drawn up plans to convert the former Ziegler's Ace Hardware store into the Fox Performing Arts Center, which would seat 275 people.
He envisions it as a place that would house theater, music, dance, cinematography, art as well as an educational program for children in the same areas. His plan is to involve local artisans, students from Community Unit District 300 and theater groups within a half-hour drive. He's also working with a team of experts to offer provide top-notch acoustics and lighting.
"It's really our goal to provide the arts community a high-quality facility so that they can grow and enrich the arts of the local western suburbs," said Browne, who sits on the village's architectural review commission and has experience running two theater groups.
But as part of an agreement with West Dundee, which owns the building, Browne has until Aug. 1 to raise $500,000 in seed money. It's a figure village leaders say would prove there is enough support to make Browne's vision a reality.
"If it's $490,000 maybe we can go another week or two," Village President Larry Keller said. "If its $225,000 ... then it may not work."
Browne eventually hopes to raise $1.8 million for the project, establish the group as a nonprofit and lease the building from West Dundee for 20 years, before buying it outright.
Browne has partnered with Tom Roeser, president and owner of Otto Engineering in Carpentersville, on the fundraising front. They will officially kick off fundraising efforts during Sunday's joint Memorial Day parade in East and West Dundee.
The pair will also seek corporate sponsorship and support from family trusts, Browne said.
So far, they've raised 20 percent of what's required. Roeser has his hand in a series of development ventures in nearby villages, and wants to make sure West Dundee's art scene really takes off.
There's been a noticeable void in the performing arts scene in West Dundee ever since the Clearwater Theater closed last year.
"This will draw people to the tri-city area, which is good for everybody again," Roeser said. "Think of this performing arts center as a way to continue to invest in that city that also has a number of vacant buildings."
The venture would also attract a different clientele and hopefully, new businesses, Keller said.
Officials originally wanted to raze the building and put a parking lot in its place before Browne approached them. If all goes well, construction would start in September 2013 and the center would open the following May.