Raue Center for the Arts eyes East Dundee for another theater

Campaign signs sit on a bench outside the Raue Center for the Arts, 26 N. Williams St. in Crystal Lake, during a Republican meet-and-greet event Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.  The event gave voters a chance to discuss a number of key issues and talk with candidates.

Crystal Lake’s Raue Center for the Arts is looking into the possibility of branching out into East Dundee.

Raue Center Executive Director Richard Kuranda made his first public pitch to East Dundee trustees Monday. Village officials have been exploring a partnership with the Raue Center for the Arts for more than a year, Village Administrator Erika Storlie said.

“It presents a very exciting economic opportunity and also a very exciting opportunity for the community to participate in the performing arts,” Storlie said.

Last year, the village bought a former lumberyard in the downtown district on Railroad Street. The 2-acre property, which the village bought for $800,000, could house a mixed-use development anchored by a performing arts center, officials said.

Discussions still are in the early stages, and Kuranda said the center has other locations it is considering. East Dundee, however, is a “top priority,” he said Tuesday.

At Monday’s meeting, Kuranda told trustees he envisioned a 250- to 350-seat theater with the potential for outdoor performances in the downtown district, which includes the Dundee Depot, a popular spot for the village’s outdoor summer events. The center hopes to have a theater open within the next four to five years.

“It seems to be an incredible opportunity,” Kuranda said of the possibility of expanding into East Dundee. “We’re hopeful that this is the start of a wonderful dialogue that will lead to fruition.”

Kuranda said on Tuesday that the center has a grant to expand and bring the arts to other communities. However, he declined to elaborate about the grant or the amount of the award.

The Raue Center hosts artists and shows throughout the year and enjoys wide community support. He noted that 92% of the center’s grant funds and 65% of all ticket sales are generated outside of Crystal Lake. When the Raue Center opened in 2001, Crystal Lake’s downtown district had a 36% occupancy rate, Kuranda said. Today, the city boasts a 100% occupancy rate within its downtown district, he said.

The Raue Center has featured performances by comedians Jane Lynch and David Sedaris, plays by the Williams Street Repertory, various tribute bands and the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. The center also hosts a variety of educational programs, including shows for students and performing arts classes for the community.

“We’re all extremely excited about the opportunity that this theater might join us in our downtown,” East Dundee Trustee Scott Kunze said. “This is one of the rare projects that is beneficial to all of our downtown businesses and to our residents. I think it’s a great opportunity for us.”

Kuranda said the center will begin a feasibility study to determine if an East Dundee location is the best fit for the center. Storlie said the village also will seek proposals from developers regarding the development of the 2 acres on Railroad Street.

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