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Article updated: 9/17/2013 7:41 PM

Performing arts center concept in West Dundee tenuous

Rick Browne, a local architect, hopes to turn the former Zieglerís Ace Hardware building in downtown West Dundee into a regional performing arts center. The project, which involves renovating and adding onto the building, is expected to cost $3 million. A recent study shows it could take a theater group between three and five years to raise the necessary funds. Village trustees say they canít guarantee they will keep the hardware store available for that long.

Rick Browne, a local architect, hopes to turn the former Ziegler's Ace Hardware building in downtown West Dundee into a regional performing arts center. The project, which involves renovating and adding onto the building, is expected to cost $3 million. A recent study shows it could take a theater group between three and five years to raise the necessary funds. Village trustees say they can't guarantee they will keep the hardware store available for that long.

 

courtesy of R.R. Browne Architects

A local group would like to turn the shuttered Zieglerís Ace Hardware store in West Dundee into a performing arts center.

A local group would like to turn the shuttered Ziegler's Ace Hardware store in West Dundee into a performing arts center.

 

Rick West | Staff Photographer

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West Dundee trustees endorse the idea of opening a performing arts center downtown, but the show may not necessarily go on at the old Ziegler's Ace Hardware store as planned.

A study concludes the group pushing the project -- headed by West Dundee architect Rick Browne -- needs three to five more years of planning and promotion before it can raise the $3 million necessary to bring the project to fruition. To date the group has raised about $225,000 in cash and pledges toward the project.

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As a result, trustees asked the village staff last week to draft a resolution that reaffirms their support for the Fox Performing Arts Center concept but removes the village-owned hardware store from the equation. The resolution comes to a vote next month and the board could revise it if the group's financial situation changes or the empty store remains available.

"I think we'd all like to see it happen downtown and I think that building would be great," West Dundee Trustee Tom Price said. "But it just depends on (Browne's) timeline, whether it remains available, whether it's three or five years out. I don't think we can say we can continue to make that building available."

Browne and his supporters hope to convert the building into a regional performing arts center they say would breathe new life into the downtown. The concept is the brainchild of Browne, also president of the group's board of directors. He's been spearheading the project for nearly three years and did not want to see the building razed and turned into a temporary parking lot.

Browne convinced trustees to hold off on its demolition in 2010 so he could raise enough money to turn it into an arts center. The village board's wait-and-see position seems to be changing after trustees last week heard the results of a study conducted by American City Bureau, a West Dundee agency Browne's group hired to help it raise money.

The study showed Browne's group needs three to five years to market themselves and build a donor base before it can start raising the rest of the $3 million in earnest, said Dan Mollsen, ACB's senior vice president and finance director. The study gathered input from 21 prospective donors who could give between $10,000 and $1 million to the center, Mollsen said.

While the donors agreed with the group's vision, they wanted to be assured of the organization's lifeblood before offering their own money, Mollsen said. The donors suggested the group develop a strategic plan and submit a facility review that details why the hardware store is the right location for a performing arts center.

"People weren't familiar with the organization," Mollsen said. "The Fox Performing Arts Center really needs to get established in the community, sell the vision, prove that they're a viable enterprise."

Browne thanked the board for its support the past few years and said he won't stand in the way of progress.

Besides raising about $225,000, the group has also applied for nonprofit status, worked to generate buzz by participating in community events, and has established its vision, and Browne said he hopes to hire a part-time marketing and development director by next summer.

"We're moving on a number of fronts and we're collecting a lot of intelligent people around us to help us get out there," Browne said. "I think that's the main thing."

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