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updated: 6/10/2014 5:52 PM

Elgin Art Showcase might move if fire system isn't upgraded

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The Elgin Art Showcase might move if its building is not outfitted with a code-compliant fire system, city officials said.

Meanwhile, the city of Elgin hasn't paid rent since January for the space occupied by the Art Showcase on the 8th floor of the Professional Building at 164 Division St. The city, in turn, rents out that space to theater, arts and music groups.

The city has imposed a Jan. 31, 2015, deadline for the building owners to install smoke detectors in all offices, Elgin Fire Chief John Fahy said. That's the last item needed to bring the building into full compliance with life safety codes, Fahy said.

The city received the proposed plans -- which include wireless smoke detectors -- from building representatives last month, but spec sheets were missing, Fahy said.

Building co-owner Ron Cope said he was only recently informed that the plans submitted by the management company for the project, which will cost about $90,000, were incomplete. There are already smoke detectors in the hallways, he added.

"We've tried to be good property owners in Elgin and comply with what the city asks us to do," he said. "Sometimes it's not that easy, like financing $90,000."

Fahy said the building owners have already done much of the required work, such as installing sprinkler systems on the first two floors.

Meanwhile, members of the city of Elgin's Cultural Arts Commission this week started discussing possible alternate spaces for the Art Showcase.

Councilwoman Tish Powell said the owners were supposed to submit their plans for the smoke detectors in December, but they were late. A "plan B" is needed in case there are more delays, she said.

"The Elgin Art Showcase can exist, if necessary, some place else if for some reason the Professional Building does not do the upgrades they need to do to meet our guidelines," Powell said.

Cope said he is working toward meeting the city's deadline.

"I hope they don't have to move out. It's better for the city to support buildings like the Professional Building that are landmark buildings," he said. "We've invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring the building into compliance."

The 1928 building is all masonry, so drilling holes would be a large undertaking, he said. That's why the plan calls for wireless technology, he said.

Cope said he asked if the city could use tax-increment financing funds to help fund the project, but was told "no" because the city rents space in the building.

Meanwhile, the city hasn't paid rent since the lease expired in December as it conducted negotiations with the building owners, City Manager Sean Stegall said.

The city council's committee of the whole is expected to discuss renewing the lease retroactively at Wednesday's meeting.

Cope said he was hoping the city would sign a five-year lease, but city officials instead proposed three years. The lease would be void if the building isn't code compliant by the Jan. 31, 2015 deadline, Stegall said.

Powell said a one-year lease might be more appropriate, given the circumstances.

The life safety mandate, which would bring the Professional Building in compliance with codes dating back to 2007, also applies to two other high-rises in Elgin: Buena Vista Towers at 222 Locus St., which recently got federal financing for a sprinkler system, and the Elgin Tower Building, which is empty after being condemned by the city last month, Fahy said.

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