ELMHURST – Building the Elmhurst Centre for the Performing Arts is financially viable, according to a study released in mid-January by Johnson Consulting, a real estate and hospitality firm based in Chicago.
Elmhurst Centre for the Performing Arts board member Laura Michaud said the proposed multimillion-dollar venue would provide a space for the nearly 30 performing arts groups in Elmhurst that don't have a "professional" place to perform.
The nonprofit organization envisions having a multi-story building within walking distance to restaurants with a main theater on the first floor, a mezzanine, a black box stage in a smaller theater that could be configured in multiple ways, office space and rehearsal space, Michaud said.
The organization raised money and received some funding from the city of Elmhurst for the study, which cost about $35,000, she said.
The organization's chairman, architect Jeff Budgell, said having a central "state-of-the-art" facility for the arts would fulfill "a big piece that's missing" in Elmhurst and also bring in more revenue through additional local shopping and restaurant-goers who might come to Elmhurst for performances at the venue.
Budgell's firm, Architects Studio, created blueprints for the concept facility at no cost to the center, apart from outside consultants who did various projects, about a year and a half ago to help determine whether a single, typical downtown Elmhurst lot would be sufficient for the venue, he said. Through the Johnson Consulting feasibility study, the center learned that with 550 seats, it would be difficult to fit on one typical lot, Budgell said.
"The professionals that did the study, they're saying that we really need to be a bigger theater – 550 seats – and that would make it 50,000 square feet, which is a little bigger than we had," Budgell said.
He said some people are concerned about the cost and the location for the venue, but the multimillion-dollar Elmhurst Public Library building "has turned out to be one of the greatest assets this community has."
Budgell said center supporters are starting to move forward on finding partnerships for funding the center and finding a site. He said the study found these facilities don't typically produce a profit and need donations to keep them running, but if they are run properly and produce shows, they can make a profit. Organizers would run a fundraising campaign to retire the debt as soon as possible, he said.
Budgell said they would hope Elmhurst performing arts groups would "call this [center] home" in addition to being available to corporate groups and private events.
"The success of this facility is in management and getting it used. ... The more we use the facility, the better it is for the community economically," he said.
The feasibility study concluded the performing arts center would require a 50,000-square-foot building and cost about $25 million, Michaud said.
"Twenty-five million dollars doesn't scare me," she said.
Michaud said the organization is honing its business plan, identifying partnership opportunities and looking for volunteers to help with fundraisers and marketing, as well as corporate sponsorships.
"It's been very well received. ... I'm pretty pumped up about it," she said.
To learn about the Elmhurst Centre for the Performing Arts, visit ecpa-elmhurst.org.