May 3rd, 2006, 05:44 PM
Coin Slot Cleaner
Possible bad news concerning MBC opening in Chicago
Funding mess imperils broadcast museum
May 3, 2006
BY ROBERT FEDER CHICAGO SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
Construction could be halted today on Chicago's half-finished Museum of Broadcast Communications because of the state's failure to deliver $3 million in promised funding.
Pepper Construction Co. has notified museum officials that work will cease today unless it receives $3,092,465 in overdue payment for the first phase of the $21 million building project.
Construction has been under way since July 2005 on the four-story, 70,000-square-foot edifice on the site of a former parking garage at State and Kinzie streets.
Bruce DuMont, founder and president of the museum, blamed the snafu on Gov. Blagojevich for not releasing funds previously budgeted for the fiscal year ending 2006 and approved for the project.
"If the state doesn't give us what they promised, things will get very messy and very ugly," DuMont warned. "We've reached the point where there's no other alternative. The whole house of cards will fall by their own stupidity in not seeing this through."
At least publicly, the Blagojevich administration appears to be supportive of the project, which is seen as a tourist mecca and a source of employment and economic development.
"Our office has been working hard to help you find the necessary funding to make the museum a reality," Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk wrote to DuMont last week. "We believe that the Museum of Broadcast Communications would be a positive addition to Chicago and to Illinois, and we hope that it quickly becomes a reality."
But the letter also set forth a number of conditions that DuMont said were never part of the original agreement with the state, including the requirement to secure an additional $1 million in bank credit and additional pledges from other sources.
"While I'm out in Hollywood raising money, the governor is stabbing me in the back," DuMont said Tuesday before meeting with studio executives to pitch museum underwriting.
On the basis of promised state funding -- which has decreased from $8 million to $6 million to $3 million -- the museum has been able to obtain bank loans and private grants as well as persuade Pepper Construction to begin work. Now with the exterior of the building nearly complete, the future of the project could be up for grabs.
The museum's archives and exhibits have been in storage since March 2004 when it left its leased quarters at the Chicago Cultural Center after 12 years.
May 4th, 2006, 01:26 PM