Performing arts center in West Dundee in limbo
The proposed Fox Performing Arts Center is in danger of not becoming a reality. Fundraising has fallen far short of the $500,000 that West Dundee leaders requested of the man proposing to redevelop the former Zeigler's Ace Hardware store.
Rick Browne has until Monday to raise a total of $500,000 in seed money in order to realize his vision of turning an abandoned West Dundee hardware store into a regional performing arts venue.
But barring a miracle, it doesn't appear Browne will reach that deadline, as he's only raised $121,000, an amount that has the village president losing faith in the board's partnership with Browne.
"From the board's standpoint, we issued a challenge and Rick said that's reasonable and so if that challenge isn't met or nearly met ... then I think we have to call it a day and say, 'Well we tried but it just didn't work,' Village President Larry Keller said.
Browne, a local architect, has raised less than 25 percent of what West Dundee officials need to see as proof that the $1.8 million project can stand on its own.
He's scheduled to present a formal report to the board on Aug. 15 and hopes the trustees cut him some slack.
"I'm confident that the village board will see the increasing support and growth that we've had over the past few months and will encourage us to move forward and look at the next six to 12 months," Browne said.
Browne wants to convert the old Ziegler's Ace Hardware store into the Fox Performing Arts Center, a state-of-the-art, 258-seat venue that he says would draw talent from all over the region. Construction would begin next August and the center would open the following May.
Its presence likely would help revitalize downtown West Dundee and bring more customers to patronize its shops and restaurants.
The alternative was razing the building turning the site into a temporary parking lot.
In March, the village, which owns the hardware store, agreed to partner with Browne to reuse the building and requested that he raise at least $500,000 toward the project by July 30.
Fundraising efforts officially began in April.
Browne contends that the $500,000 is not a "drop dead number amount," that it's unrealistic to raise that much money in such a short amount of time and that he did not dictate the terms of the partnership with West Dundee.
Either way, the lack of funds leaves Keller discouraged.
"It's just frustrating because I would love to see a performing arts center in Dundee, but it doesn't seem to be the interest there to get it going and I know the economy is not a helpful time," Keller said.
Browne insists the interest is there, even if the money is not.
About 500 people have signed a petition pledging their support for the performing arts center.
He most recently partnered with Van's Frozen Custard, which is opening shop in East Dundee, to raise money for it and continues to meet with donors and family foundations.
"In the last two or three months, we just started getting our momentum on having people understand the project and what it's for and getting not only community support, but getting pledges outside of West Dundee," Browne said.
Trustee Norm Osth's patience has worn thin, though, and he's ready to demolish the building. He also said Browne should have started raising money when he first approached the village in 2010.
"We've been telling him from the get-go,'You've got to prove to us you've got the resources to pull this off,'" Osth said."It's put up or shut up time."
The next fundraiser, called "Celebrate the Arts," will be held at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at Otto Engineering, 11 W. Main St., Carpentersville. It will include hors d'oeuvres, a wine bar and live music and theater performances. Art also will be on display.
Tickets cost $25 each. For details, visit www.foxartscenter.com/celebrate.html
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