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Aurora

Geneva Theater outcome more promising



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May 07, 2013 | 02:20 PM
So far, so good.

The future of the historic Geneva Theater appears more promising than ever.

After months of fundraising and handwringing, the arts community is in a better place and so is the city.

Before the recent purchase of the building by an outside investor, the city and the Friends of the Geneva Theater were between a rock and a hard place.

The Friends wanted the city to buy the building and allow it to be run as a community arts center.

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Sarah Schauf/Regional News. (click for larger version)
While their sincerity and resolve is unquestioned, their apparent inability to present the city with a viable business plan kept the project in neutral.

Truth be told, it wasn't a bad place to be as far as some city councilmen were concerned.

While some council members supported the purchase and others had indicated they'd vote against it, the swing voters had a dilemma on their hands.

They liked the idea and the people involved, but they questioned whether it would be self-sufficient financially.

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If the idea failed, the city would be stuck with a theater on its hands and egg on its face.

Constituents would have rightly come down on the city fathers and called it a boondoggle, especially considering the city has more pressing financial needs.

And, if the city owned it, they wouldn't even be receiving a tax payback for the property.

While many in the business community gave lip service to the arts idea, none apparently felt confident enough to put sufficient money where their mouths were and purchase the place.

There didn't seem to be a good answer.

Not only would the city have had egg on its face if the idea failed, so would the arts community. Any chance of them gaining steam on a similar idea would have shrunk.

For both parties involved, it would have been a huge leap of faith to go forward.

Being in neutral seemed to be the best course of action.

Keeping it in neutral, however, did not exactly remind anyone of an action plan. Eventually, something would happen. Something finally did.

Out of the blue, an apparently benevolent buyer appeared. It was a deus ex machina moment — the cavalry arrived just in time.

While they didn't specifically purchase it for the arts community, they indicated they were at least open to the idea of some artful involvement.

The result: The city is off the hook. The arts community will have a burden to prove itself to the new owner, but at least it'll have a chance to fulfill its dream.

The other upside is that the city won't be in a position of trying to realize expectations, a position they would have been in had they owned it.

If they owned it, they'd be on the horns of a dilemma.

If they wielded too heavy a hand on the Friends they'd be accused of meddling. Plus they'd be burdened with the use of time and resources to do so.

If they were hands off, they'd be accused of lax oversight if the project failed.

We're hardly at the end of the road.

There's nothing beyond a vague understanding between the new owner and the Friends.

And there's lots of work to be done both on the building and toward a viable game plan for the theater.

But now, at least, there's hope — with fewer strings attached.

Editor's note: In my diatribe last week, I used the pronoun "he" in a reference to an over-heard exchange involving a former mayor. I should have used the pronoun "her" to describe the person the mayor was talking to. Sorry for any confusion.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Lake Geneva Regional News.

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