Alderman urges colleagues to ‘dream big’

By Jason Arndt


A proposed multi-use Performing Arts Center along the Fox River is only a dream for the City of Burlington.

But some Common Council members want to see if the dream can become a reality and approved a $10,000 revolving loan fund grant for the Burlington Performing Arts Foundation Inc. to finance a feasibility study on a 5-3 decision at Tuesday’s meeting.

The grant covers 50 percent of the feasibility study with the Burlington Performing Arts Foundation, Inc. required to raise the rest through the city’s matching grant program and private donations.

The Burlington Performing Arts Foundation, Inc., however, has 90 days to come forward with the additional funds or the grant will be returned to the city’s Revolving Loan Fund program.

District 2 Alderman Bob Grandi, one of five proponents of the grant, said he supports the feasibility study because it could bring considerable benefit to the city if the PAC is realized.

Grandi, noting previous discussions on the matter, recalled someone stating the City of Burlington should dream big.

“I started thinking about that and there are just so many examples that have occurred since I have lived here,” he said.

“I would like to see us take this risk very much. I am excited about this project.”

Jon Schultz II, of the third district, agreed with Grandi and said the opportunity allows the city to enhance the area.

“For me, this is a chance to be part of something that would transform Burlington,” he said.

Theater site targeted

The Burlington Performing Arts Foundation, Inc. began discussions last year and targets the site of the former Western Racine County Service Center on Main Street as well as the Malt House Theatre, Roger’s Auto and Centaur Forge.

The proposed site is bordered by Jefferson Street on the north, East State Street/Adams Street on the south, Main Street on the east and the Fox River on the west.

The Racine County Economic Development Corp., which serves as an advisor of the revolving loan fund program, outlined some benefits of the feasibility study.

RCEDC views the project concept as beneficial to the community because it could create three full-time jobs, many part-time jobs and enhance the area along the Fox River.

Additional benefits include drawing in more traffic to existing and future businesses, encouraging additional housing opportunities due to improved quality of life and eliminating blight.

“The impact on the community is substantial so we felt it should be brought before you for discussion and consideration,” RCEDC Business Finance Manager Carolyn Engel said at a Nov. 19 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Engel, however, said at a Nov. 19 meeting the grant was unlike other applicants because the Performing Arts Foundation, Inc. did not have a written business plan.

“Typically, loan and/or grant request rely upon an established business or a start-up with a written business plan,” Engel wrote in a memorandum to the Common Council.

“In this situation, the proposed project is in the very early stages of determining whether to proceed with this plan.”

To read the entire story see the Dec. 12 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.