Park District Shares Plans for Performing Arts Center

Buffalo Grove's Plan Commission will review the proposal to convert Congregation Beth Am into a park district center for the arts.

The ’s plan to convert the building into a performing arts center was put into motion this week by village trustees, who voted unanimously to direct the Plan Commission begin its review.

“It looks like it’s a win-win for a congregation that needs to make a change and the park district,” Trustee Jeff Berman said.


, currently occupied by the Jewish congregation and , Dan Schimmel, the park district’s executive director, said. He presented conceptual plans Monday to convert the building into a venue for performances and dance classes.

At least some staff and programs now based at the Alcott Center would be moved to the performing arts center, he said. The park district also plans to recruit a network of volunteers who would handle such duties as technical support, audio, house management, and set design and construction.

“We expect this to be a very vibrant community within the community, and we’re very excited about that,” Schimmel said.

The park district’s plans include construction of a 400- to 500-seat theater with a stage, three or four dance studios, a fine arts center and classrooms. A small building addition designated for set construction and equipment storage is also among the plans.

“It’s nice to see you’re stepping forward and trying to do something for the arts,” Village President Jeff Braiman said.

The park district entered its purchase contract about two weeks ago, and has 45 days to complete its due diligence, which includes determining what changes need to be made to the building and how much they will cost.

Plan commissioners will conduct reviews and schedule a public hearing. The park district would need a special use permit to open a performing arts center on the property, which currently is zoned for two types of business use.

If the village approves the plans, Beth Am would remain in the building through June 2013, giving the park district time to complete its planning process. On July 1, Schimmel said, they’d “hit the ground running.” 

Interior renovations would include a new, higher ceiling to accommodate production and lighting needs, he said. 

Ted Haug, an architect who is working with the park district, said stormwater detention and parking will also be among the issues examined. The work would also include yet-to-be-determined exterior building modifications, he said.

"We're making it into a performing arts center. It certainly doesn't read as performing arts center now," Haug said. "This is an exciting sort of activity that's going to occur in this building and we want that reflected architecturally. Now, what that is, is too premature to say at this time."

Haug said he hopes to make a preliminary presentation to the Village Board in September. He estimated that the transformation to the performing arts center would take nine months to a year. 


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