Architect misses deadlines for arts center idea

Posted1/25/2013 7:21 PM
  • A rendering of what the old Ziegler's Ace Hardware store in downtown West Dundee would look like if it's converted into the Fox Performing Arts Center.

    A rendering of what the old Ziegler's Ace Hardware store in downtown West Dundee would look like if it's converted into the Fox Performing Arts Center. Courtesy of Rick Browne

Rick Browne, a local architect who partnered with West Dundee to convert an abandoned hardware store into a regional performing arts center, has missed deadlines to update the village on the project's progress.

Browne says the project is going well, and that he didn't need to update the village. But the lack of information is trying the patience of some village leaders.

"He keeps blowing off these goals and blowing off these deadlines," Trustee Norm Osth said. "How much patience can an organization have until it says enough is enough?"

West Dundee owns the former Ziegler's Ace Hardware store downtown, and officials wanted to raze the building and put a parking lot in its place. But in 2011, Browne came up with a plan to turn it into the Fox Performing Arts Center, a 258-seat facility he hopes will attract artistic talent from across the region and infuse new life into the downtown. West Dundee put its demolition plans on the back burner and waited to see what Browne would deliver.

But in October, Osth and Village President Larry Keller considered pulling their support from the plan after Browne didn't meet a July deadline to raise $500,000 toward the $1.8 million project. They later relented and the board extended Browne's fundraising deadline after his supporters packed the village board room. Now, he has to raise $1 million by August.

The village board also agreed to contribute $150,000 toward the building's improvements and to consider an initial 10-year lease for Browne's use of the property.

But West Dundee would only back Browne if he kept leaders apprised of his progress. By December, Browne was supposed to have forwarded letters from the building's potential users, a list of people on the center's board of directors, an organizational chart that indicates whether they are paid, part-time or full-time staff and proof that the organization is a nonprofit.

This month, Browne was supposed to compile and present the village with a report that would update trustees on his fundraising efforts and the organization's progress. The presentation was supposed to occur at the board's meeting on Jan. 14, but no presentation was ever made.

Next month, the board hopes to discuss Browne's progress thus far.

But Village Manager Joe Cavallaro said he doesn't have anything to tell the board because he hasn't heard anything from Browne, nor did Browne reply to the two letters Cavallaro mailed and emailed to him as a follow-up.

Trustee Tom Price, one of the project's supporters, is still willing to give Browne a chance.

"I'm not going to let a few weeks make the difference between a yes and what not, but he does need to submit something soon and I hope good news, but we'll see what he has to say," Price said.

Browne, who says he never received any correspondence from Cavallaro, says things are going smoothly.

He recently hired a company to help him secure money for the project and to date, $225,000 in pledges and donations has been raised.

Browne's behind in getting the information to West Dundee because a board of directors meeting scheduled for December had to be postponed, since three board members were out of town for the holidays. That meeting will be held Wednesday, and Browne plans to make announcements about the organization the following day.

Browne said he was also held up because he, at the village's request, created seven elaborate windows for its Dickens in Dundee event. The last time he talked to West Dundee about his progress was in November, and he doesn't feel obligated to keep them posted on every last detail.

"Our business is our business; I don't have to tell West Dundee what I'm doing, No. 1," Browne said. "They have asked us to follow some mandates, and so far we're behind schedule by a couple of months, maybe a month. But we do plan on compiling all of the information that the village has required."

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