Oak Park Performing Arts and Convention Center

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The Oak Park Performing Arts and Convention Center is a destination development in the downtown area of Oak Park, Illinois, the concept of Les Golden, a long-time resident and Renaissance Man. It is a mix of restaurants, banquet halls, night clubs, and offices, retail, and loft apartments with a focal point Fine and Performing Arts and Convention Center.

“If you set mediocre goals, the most you will ever achieve is mediocrity.”


Holley Court Commercial Partners ("Partners") developed the Center as a 250,000 square foot multi-use development for the parcel located at the Harlem Avenue-South Boulevard in Oak Park, Illinois. It consists of restaurants and banquet facilities, night clubs, retail, offices, and loft apartments with a focal point fine and performing arts/convention center (“PAACC”). The latter includes a concert hall, theatre, meeting rooms, galleries, studios, multi-media production studio, and classroom, office, rehearsal, and storage space.

The complex will be located within a park-like decorative environment congenial to cultural activities. PAACC will be the focal structure of the Center. The Center will be constructed using energy-efficient design and technology and includes 33,500 square feet of landscaped area. The LEED-based design will result from an architectural competition. The PAACC will be constructed with sufficient engineering integrity to allow vertical expansion of two to three stories for a future hotel. A conceptual rendering of the site and a height impact analysis are appended.

The Center is distinguished by two financial factors, funding and synergistic marketing. In the current economic environment, the model of investor and bank financing is proving less and less tenable. Funding for the Center is based on grants in return for naming rights. Second, placing a pet supply store next to a book store provides no synergy. The marketing model is based on synergy. A banquet hall requires a dry cleaner, florist, and formal wear outlet and a performing arts venue requires VIP limousine service and a travel agency, for examples.

Previous incarnations of this concept have resulted in support from the arts community in Oak Park and those simply interested in the arts. Some of those individuals are members of the Advisory Committee which will consult with architects on the design of the Center, including sound engineering of the concert hall and theatre and lighting, space, and electrical requirements.

The Center

The Site Model for the development

The Center consists of a mix of buildings that acts as a “destination,” attracting local residents, those from the greater Chicago area, and tourists. It consists of ten restaurants, two banquet halls, two night clubs; a performing arts/convention center (“PAACC”); retail; loft apartments; and offices. It will organically provide the demand for a future hotel.

The ten restaurants are grouped in three pavilions, each around a central plaza, a Continental Pavilion, an Oriental Pavilion, and a Mediterranean Pavilion. Each central plaza is landscaped in the motif of the given geographical area and is the center for cultural activities and celebrations relevant to the respective geographical areas. These would include commemorations such as Bastille Day, Greek Easter, the Chinese New Year, Oktoberfest, and the Running of the Bulls as well as art fairs, live performances, and other cultural activities. It is a park dedicated to the celebration of Oak Park's diverse cultures. Outdoor ground-level dining and rooftop seating will be available in garden environments. Consistent with the environmentally respectful philosophy of the Center, a greenhouse housing an organic vegetable garden and flower garden for restauranteurs, the banquet halls, and the retail florist would be created.

The two night clubs would serve different constituencies. One would be a jazz club and we anticipate honoring the memory of legendary Oak Park resident and friend Dick Buckley by naming it after him. We will investigate live performances broadcast from the club on the jazz programming WDCB-FM. The other would be an eclectic venue for comedy, rock, poetry jams, and folk music.

Oak Park no longer has a banquet hall. Two will exist at the Center. They will attract civic award functions, holiday parties, weddings, dignitary receptions, convention gatherings, and reunions.

The seven-story 95,000 square foot PAACC contains a concert hall, theatre, galleries, studios, meeting rooms, a multi-media production studio, and classroom, office, rehearsal, and storage space. Details are provided in the next section, PAACC Floor Plan. To minimize noise distraction, the concert hall and theatre would be located in the portion of the PAACC most distant from the elevated train tracks. The PAACC will become the focus of cultural life both for Oak Park and the region.

An obvious synergy exists between the restaurants/banquet facilities/night clubs and the PAACC. Restaurant and banquet patrons would attend performances and openings at the PAACC. Those patrons would obtain after-performance snacks at the restaurants and late-night entertainment at the night clubs. Convention and scholarly meeting attendees as well as casual visitors to the PAACC would have meal and banquet service provided by the restaurants of the Center. Food service at the night clubs would be provided by the restaurants. Energy costs are minimized by construction of cooperative freezer space.

If the additional parcel east of the South/Harlem site is available for development, we will increase the sizes of the Mediterranean and Oriental plazas, move the Oriental restaurants eastward; relocate the greenhouse; expand the size of the office/loft apartment building; and provide room for additional retail. We would study the possibility of preserving and retrofitting the greystone building as architecturally significant.

As currently envisioned, many of the structures will be supported on a stilt structure. Parking for 160 cars will be available on the current ground level, on the existing parking lots, resurfaced. Access to parking will be from Harlem Avenue northbound and from Maple Avenue, both northbound and southbound.

PAACC Floor Plan

The tentative layout of the seven-floor Performing Arts and Convention Center is as follows. The members of our Advisory Committee will consult with the architects on design requirements for various aspects of the Center. First floor: Retail; valet parking; Spanish cuisine, Swedish cuisine, Greek cuisine, Italian cuisine, publication, marketing, ticket, booking, and management offices; secretarial support; grant assistance; plaza concert sound equipment storage.

Second floor: Dressing room, props storage, classrooms, Green Room, music/dance auditorium.

Third floor: Fine arts studios, audition/rehearsal room, arts groups offices, music/dance auditorium mezzanine level and tech booth.

Fourth floor: VIP reception area, media room, screening room, A/V storage, convention center meeting rooms, Oak Park Arts and Culture Hall of Fame, convention center catering.

Fifth floor: Art studios, photography studio, dance studio, art galleries, photo galleries, arts library, Oak Park Historical Society research materials, Hemingway and F.L. Wright Library/Research Center.

Sixth floor: Multi-use theatre and recital hall, workshop/machine shop, and set, wardrobe, equipment storage.

Seventh floor: Audition/rehearsal rooms, multi-media production and broadcast studio, broadcast electronics, satellite receiver, multi-use theatre and recital hall mezzanine level and tech booth.

Rooftop: Broadcast transmitter, satellite dishes, solar cell array.

The PAACC will be constructed with sufficient engineering integrity to allow vertical expansion of two to three stories for a future hotel.

Costs and Revenues

Without final plans, only estimates of costs and revenues can be provided. The estimated cost for the development is $20.8 million. Of this, $15.6 is for shell construction including $7.7 million for shell construction of PAACC. Annual revenues from sales taxes, licenses, and property taxes are projected at $4.4 million.

Funding Sources

The funding for the project will come largely from the granting of naming rights at three levels.

a) Partners will aggressively seek major funding from Fortune 500 corporations. For comparison, the finances of naming rights provided for other venues are provided in Appendix C.

The findings are summarized in the figure. It is seen that the fraction of the cost of a facility funded by corporate naming rights decreases with the cost of the facility. Based on these data, the Partners will seek to obtain at least 40% of the cost of the Center from corporate naming rights.

Under typical naming rights agreements, the corporate logo appears extensively throughout the facility, on facility signage, and collateral. In addition, special display platforms are constructed into the roof decks of the structures. Local Chicago area corporate offices and outlets also would receive a brand integration elements, high-profile signage, and promotional and hospitality opportunities.

The corporate financing model contains proprietary features other that those of marketing. It has been discussed off the record with the finance director of the Village of Oak Park who agrees that the model is novel and believes that it is not precluded by Illinois statute. The details of the model will be discussed with the Village of Oak Park at the appropriate time.

b) Show business personalities, performers, and successful business people with roots in Oak Park will be solicited to provide significant additional amount of funding in return for the naming after them of major venues such as the concert hall and theatre, art galleries, the arts library, and television and radio production facilities. A proprietary short list of contacts was developed in conjunction with the 2007 proposal for the same site and those individuals would be approached in conjunction with the current proposal.

c) Individual residents will be encouraged to provide smaller amounts of funding in return for seats in the concert hall and theatre, gallery rooms, library reading carrels, the greenhouse, convention center meeting rooms, the large and small fountains, the rose gardens, and other features being named after them. (With the Oak Park Park District changing its memorial tree policy from having a small plaque installed under a newly planted tree for $300 to getting a plaque installed under an existing tree for $450, this program is expected to be attractive to many residents.) In this way, the Center will be partially funded and “owned” by villagers.

Partners desire that favorable financial considerations, including land acquisition costs and property tax abatement, similar to those discussed with previous developers, will be extended.


Retail and Office Space

The presence of the PAACC, restaurants, banquet halls, parks, and plazas creates a synergy with the retail stores that will ensure their long-term viability. Retail stores will find a ready-made market not only from the PAACC, restaurants, banquet halls, and plazas but also from residents of the surrounding neighborhood, commuters, and tourists. Attractive potential retailers include a gift, stationery, and card shop; florist; tuxedo rental and formal wear shop; barbershop and beauty parlor; dry cleaner; tea, coffee, and herb store; beverage store; ice creamery; bookstore; ticket outlet; travel agency; theatrical supply store (makeup, dance shoes, costumes); art supply store; printer satellite office; internet café; bank; limousine service; and car rental satellite office. Most of these types of retailers are not present in the immediate area.

In the previous (2007) response to the RFP, we had successfully acquired leasing intent agreements from one banquet hall operator, four restaurant owners, a jazz night club operator, and owners of a gift/card shop, beauty parlor, dry cleaner, ice creamery, theatrical supply store, printer office, and limousine service. All agreements were based on their envisioning a ready-made market for their services.

The retailers will be located in a structure on Harlem Avenue and along South Blvd. along the entire east-west extent of the Center. The Center has space for three stores along Harlem (2450 sq. ft.) and ten to twelve stores along South Boulevard (11,260 sq. ft.). A total of 13,710 sq. ft. of retail space will be created.

Office space will be constructed as two levels above the retailers along Harlem Avenue (4900 sq. ft.), and within a three-story building at the southeast corner of the Center (10,200 sq. ft.). A total of 15,100 sq. ft. of office space will be created. Additional office space to support the PAACC will be created on the first floor of that structure. The third story of the building at the southeast corner of the Center will be allocated to loft apartments.

Landscaping and Community Concern

The Center will be a park, with 36,000 square feet of landscaping. This includes gardens, fountains, outdoor seating, rooftop seating, and a vegetable and flower greenhouse for use by the restaurants and banquet halls of the Center.

Abutting on two apartment buildings to the south, the site requires concern for the quality of life of their residents. The office building on the east parcel will be three stories high, the same height as the adjacent building at 114 S. Maple. The apartment building on the west parcel will face an open area of the park.

The PAACC is constructed over Maple Avenue so that access by neighborhood residents is not disrupted. In this way, Maple Avenue also provides an entrance to the ground-level parking under the Center.

Design and Sustainability

If and when the Center project is approved by the Village of Oak Park, Partners will open an architectural design competition, with preference to Oak Park residents in that field. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) guidelines and sustainable design and materials will be a prime consideration in the selection of the winning architectural firm.


Benefits to the Village of Oak Park

Such a destination entity has long been attractive to Oak Park leaders. Renowned as the home of both Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway, Oak Park is an international tourist attraction. It has been the location of numerous scholarly meetings and is the home of substantial research material. Unfortunately, Oak Park lacks a bona fide recreational tourist attraction to supplement those of Wright and Hemingway and the visitors typically return to downtown Chicago to dine and for overnight accommodations. As one result, attempts in the past to secure corporate interest in an Oak Park hotel have failed.

One need look no further than July, 2006, to see the impact the Center would have had on Oak Park revenues. In the Oak Leaves of July 26, the executive director of the Oak Park Area Visitors Bureau noted that "the nighttime impact of Gay Games visitors was minimal. ... Restaurants and stores near the game locations did see an upturn in business, especially during the lunch hour and early evening."

With ten restaurants, outdoor dining and people-viewing, two theaters, an internet cafe, two night clubs, and shops, the Center, if it had been in existence, would have kept thousands of international visitors in Oak Park until the wee hours of the morning. Knowing that they were just a 15-20 minute el ride from their downtown hotels, these visitors would have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in Oak Park that were instead spent at Chicago restaurants, bars, theaters, and clubs. In addition, the scholarly meetings and an envisioned Oak Park Writers Summer Workshop will bring visitors who will require housing. It is easily reasonably projected that within a few years the demand for an Oak Park hotel on the site would lead to its realization.

Oak Park benefits from its geographical location. It is the closest suburb to downtown Chicago. Being served by two elevated trains and the METRA commuter railway, it is twenty minutes from downtown, the shortest commute of any suburb. Since the 1960’s, Oak Park has found itself centered among major intellectual centers in the Chicago area. It is midway between the Loyola University Medical Center to the west and the Cook County/Rush Presbyterian/University of Illinois Medical Centers to the east, and is six miles to the west of the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. It is also within one mile of Dominican University and Concordia University, two small private colleges, and within several miles of Triton Community College. As a result, Oak Park is home to thousands of medical practitioners, university professors, and attorneys. These upscale citizens lack the cultural center that is provided to residents of other communities such as Naperville, Evanston, Skokie, and Arlington Heights.

Because of its excellent transportation and proximity to downtown, Oak Park is also home to thousands of performing and graphic artists. These have formed theater groups, dance companies, a symphony orchestra, and art, drama, and music schools serving grammar school students, teenagers, adults, and senior citizens. The groups are scattered throughout the village, and over the years the desire has existed for a central location. Oak Park is home to distinguished performers, from principal musicians in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and first-class studio and jazz musicians to television and radio personalities, actors and writers.

With such presence, the creation of a acoustically state-of-the-art concert hall would be applauded, replacing the auditorium of the local high school as the location of, for example, the distinguished Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest. Oak Park would obtain a professional theater for touring shows as well as those of Oak Park theatre, dance, and music groups. The various performing art groups would have offices in the same facility with the resulting synergistic benefit.

Downtown Oak Park no longer has an identity. For decades it was a bustling retail center, with Wieboldts, Marshall Fields, the Fair, Lyttons, Montgomery Wards, Spauldings, Bramsons, O’Connor and Goldberg, Baskins, Fanning Shoes, Kresges, and Woolworths, among others. An attempt at creating a new identity as a pedestrian mall, with and without berms, failed. The restaurant park and cultural center, with the focus PAACC, will provide a vibrant new identity for the central business district with synergistic effects up and down Lake Street and on north and south Marion Street.

Oak Park no longer has a banquet hall. Two will exist at the Center. These will attract civic award functions, holiday parties, weddings, dignitary receptions, and reunions to Oak Park.

Furthermore, thousands of young singles live within blocks of the Oak Park Avenue and Marion Street Green Line stations. They have few spots at which to spend their early evening hours. Art gallery openings and happy hours will attract them to the Center.

The scattered locations in Oak Park of Wright and Hemingway research material would be housed in a single location for student use, scholarly research, and professional colloquia. The draw of tourists for performances, art gallery openings, dining, cultural festivals, conventions, and scholarly meetings would create the need for an Oak Park hotel.

The Center would provide all of the above commercial, cultural, and demographic amenities to Oak Park.

Energy Conservation and Environmental Concerns

The architectural competition will require incorporation of environmentally respectful technology to save energy and protect the environment. Super-insulation, overhangs, and other aspects of the LEED techniques will be used in design and construction. So-called "shotgun" design will be used wherever appropriate in both the design of the buildings and in the layout of the plazas. The rooftops of the restaurant buildings will be landscaped, which reduces energy requirements for heating and cooling, and will be used for outdoor dining and socializing. The engineers on the project will evaluate wind speed at the site to determine if generation of wind power from rooftop locations is feasible. All trees currently on the site will be integrated into the landscaping and design. The rooftop of the PAACC will house a solar cell array.

Synergies and sharing will be utilized. The restaurant and banquet hall layouts are designed to accommodate sharing of pantries and energy-consuming freezers. A compost bin inside the greenhouse will recycle vegetable and paper wastes from the offices, restaurants, and PAACC. That material will be used as enriched soil for the greenhouse as well as the 33,500 square-feet of landscaping. A 100% ban of pesticide use will be imposed. With such factors guiding design and construction, the Center will be a nationally-renowned model of energy conservation and respect for the environment.

Educational and Cultural Aspects

Currently Wright and Hemingway research material is scattered in the village, housed at the Oak Park library, Hemingway’s residence, the Hemingway Museum, the Wright Home and Studio, the Unity Temple, and the Historical Society. Local leaders bemoaned the transfer of much Wright material to New York several years ago.

These materials would now be housed in a single location, the PAACC. As a result, Wright and Hemingway scholars as well as tourists would be drawn to Oak Park for graduate school studies, scholarly research, professional colloquia, as well as for Wright and Hemingway birthday celebrations. The Oak Park Historical Society would be invited to relocate to the PAACC; its presence in the PAACC would markedly increase the number of visitors, notably of tourists.

An annual mock Running of the Bulls originating in the Continental Pavilion of the Center would enhance awareness of Hemingway’s roots in Oak Park. An Oak Park Writers Summer Workshop would bring renowned writers to Oak Park to work with young and aspiring writers. An Oak Park Architecture Summer School for professionals and students would ensure nationwide awareness of the facility.

In addition, Oak Park, with its many resident performing and graphic artists, has numerous private music, dance, art, and acting studios and classes. Their staffs are not university professors, but working professionals. These groups face common challenges: Rehearsal, storage, and office space, modern performance facilities, lighting and sound equipment, and parking and ease of access. A centralized facility with creative synergy resulting from close proximity has long been desired. Weekly afternoon jazz band concerts would feature groups from Oak Park and River Forest High School, Triton College, and Concordia University. Oak Park Festival Theatre would have a viable winter home, not the cramped drawing room of Farson-Mills House. The Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest would have a permanent home, a state-of-the-art concert hall for rehearsals and performances, no longer having to rehearse and perform at the high school. More than providing these needs to Oak Park clientele, PAACC provides the opportunity for private schools in the arts to reach out to low-income youth on the west side of Chicago. Because the Chicago Transit Authority Green line has numerous stations on the west side, attending classes, rehearsals, and performances at PAACC requires not an adult with an automobile but only a modest fare. Two stations exist at the Center, both literally across the street, the Marion Street station at the east end of the Center and the Harlem Avenue station at its west end.

Holley Court Commercial Partners

The Partners are all present or former residents of Oak Park. The Partners are committed to creating an entity that would reap unprecedented benefits for their village and reinvent Downtown Oak Park while ensuring a reasonable return for their investment. The Partners possess a mix of requisite skills.

Leslie M. Golden, Ph.D, Creative Partner, is known for his passion, spirit, resourcefulness, and commitment to his ideals. He has proposed concepts similar to the current since 1984, at the Stankus Hole, at Westgate-Lake, at Holley Court, and at the current site in 2007. He is a member of the negotiating team.

Dennis E. Saliny, Ch. Engr., M.B.A. (Operations Research and Finance), has had a career in which he acquired and developed multiple large international sites for Motorola Corporation.

Joyce Porter, M.A., is a former President of the Board, Oak Park Festival Theatre. She was a member of the design committee of the Moraine Valley Community College Fine and Performing Arts Center. She is a member of the negotiating team.

Edward A. Berman, PC, is the counsel for the Partners. He is a member of the negotiating team.

Joseph Bosco, principal of J. A. Bosco and Associates, has had wide experience in marketing and public relations

In addition, the Advisory Committee will consult on design requirements for various aspects of the Center.

A development has five stages: Funding, construction, leasing, buzz marketing, and long-term marketing and leasing. Our country is entering the sixth year of an economic depression, making more difficult the most difficult phase of development, funding. The strength of Holley Court Commercial Partners lies not only in its experience but also in its contacts with those who can provide funding in the form of grants in exchange for naming rights and philanthropy. Holley Court Commercial Partners asks the Village of Oak Park to grant us one year to achieve a significant amount of the projected construction costs.

Response to Village Objectives and Citizen Input

Partners have designed the Center with special attention to the Village Objectives articulated in the RFP and the suggestions put forth by citizen focus groups in their April 12, 2006, Participatory Planning Meeting, and the 2012/2013 Houseal Lavigne HUD-funded Study.


1. CTA and METRA access ensure access to the Center for patrons throughout Chicago and the western suburbs. 2. The Center will provide unequalled stimulus to evening and nighttime activity throughout the greater Downtown area. 3. The Center will draw patrons from surrounding areas and will provide shopping and leisure opportunities for neighborhood residents. 4. Environmentally-congenial construction materials and design will be incorporated at every stage of the development. 5. A substantial inflow of property taxes and sales taxes will accrue to the Village from the Center. 6. Affordable housing units among the loft apartments will be provided to meet low-income guidelines as stated in RFP.


1. Includes restaurants and entertainment venues. 2. Parking is on ground level. 3. Open space with park, grass, and trees are provided. The buildings are topped by green roofs. A greenhouse for vegetables and flowers is created. 4. The PAACC is constructed over Maple Avenue so that traffic is not disrupted to neighborhood residents. 5. An inviting corner plaza including a gateway arch/pergola is created at the corner of Harlem Avenue and South Blvd.


1. The Center incorporates renewable energy by solar cell and possibly wind energy generation, on-site composting, a greenhouse, and landscaped roofs. 2. Pesticides would be 100% banned from the site. 3. The PAACC would include an Oak Park arts and culture Hall of Fame, in addition to the Wright/Hemingway library/research center. 4. The PAACC convention center includes meeting rooms, media support, and catering.


The tentative timetable for the Center envisions a May, 2016, grand opening.

December, 2014. Acquisition of commitments of at least 60% of the cost of the shell structure, including an agreement with a corporate partner in return for naming rights, and agreements with individuals in return for naming rights for the major venues in the PAACC.

December 2014. Announcement of architectural competition.

February, 2015. Awarding of architectural contract.

May, 2015. Ground-breaking.

October, 2015. Completion of construction of shell structure and utility service. Completion of signing of leases with retail partners, banquet hall operators, restauranteurs, and night club owners.

March, 2016. Completion of interior outfitting.

March, 2016. Walk through and remediation.

May 1, 2016. Grand Opening.


Holley Court Commercial Partners proposes to the Village of Oak Park An arts center/restaurant park/convention center for the site at Harlem Avenue and South Boulevard in Oak Park, Illinois. The development incorporates many of the village objectives and citizen suggestions. The direct tax revenues and stimulation of the adjacent Downtown area would be significant.

Advisory Committee to Holley Court Commercial Partners

The following individuals have agreed to consult with the architects on design requirements for various aspects of the Center.

Elaine Kostopulos, Retired Owner, Benettons, Lake Street Business District

Rick McNamara, Owner, Shirtworks, Marion Street Business District

James Kingsley, Investment Advisor, Edward Jones Inc.

Rick Plastina, Professional Actor, Spokesman, and Playwright

Lanny Lutz, Professional actor, Former Head, Oak Park Black-White Dialogue

John and Kris Lewis, Professional Jazz Guitarist and Vocalist

Jeremy Kahn, Professional Jazz Pianist

Cynthia Papierniak, Private Piano Instructor

Jay Friedman, Principal Trombone, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Director, The Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest

Carl Grapentine, WFMT-FM

Kurt Werner, Director of Television and Radio Production and Broadcasting, Triton College

Vashti Varnado, Painter and Graphic Artist

John Seaton, former Supervisor of Conservatory Operations, Oak Park Park District

Jim Madigan, Assistant Director, Oak Park Public Library

Holley Court Commercial Partners

934 Forest Avenue Oak Park, Illinois 60302 drlesgo@aol.com