Facts and Timeline of Air-Conditioning Discussion
The discussion of air-conditioning the Egyptian Theatre has been a long process that started in 1929.
1929 – The stock market crashed in October 1929 during construction of the Egyptian. Funding became limited and they had to finish the project, get the doors open, and start making money. While many theatres around that time were getting air-conditioning as they opened, the Egyptian Theatre did not.
1983 – A complete restoration took place after the theatre had fallen into disrepair. It was nearly condemned and scheduled for demolition. Thankfully a group of concerned citizens in 1978 created the non-profit that continues to own and operate the Egyptian today. With a grant from the State of Illinois a restoration took place 1982-1983. There wasn’t enough funding available at that time and so air-conditioning the Egyptian had once again had to be cut from the project.
May 2011 – The Downtown DeKalb revitalization project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. With the project coming in under budget, there were funds remaining in the construction bonds that needed to be used. ReNew DeKalb and the City of DeKalb approached the Egyptian Theatre about utilizing some of the remaining funds to help with some transformational projects at the Theatre.
The Egyptian Theatre and the City have long identified air-conditioning as a significant need for the Theatre. It would help maintain the Theatre’s interior improvements and protect them from high temperatures and humidity. It would transform the Theatre into a year-round attraction that would draw business to the City’s downtown consistently. In 2011, the Egyptian Theatre conducted some very preliminary review into what the costs of installing air-conditioning systems for the building would be. A local contractor provided a rough estimate of costs, indicating that it might cost approximately $500,000 for installation of a system.
The proposed grant from the City was in the amount of $890,000. At the time the Egyptian Theatre was underway with a fundraising campaign to replace the historic seats from 1929. Over $200,000 had been raised by the Egyptian Theatre at that point for the $430,000 project. Following the Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors’ strategic plan and capital project priority list the funds from the City were allocated to complete the seating project ($230,000), replace the sound system from 1983 ($160,000), and $500,000 to go towards the installation of air-conditioning.
Both the City and the Egyptian fully supported the installation of air-conditioning. Both parties recognized that further engineering and cost verification was required before the project could proceed. Given the unique nature of the historic structure it is important to preserve as much of the natural beauty of the Theatre as possible.
Summer 2011 – Egyptian Theatre completes seating project and sound system replacement project.
Fall 2011 – Planning begins with an architect to search for a qualified MEP (mechanical/electrical/plumbing) engineering firm to design and bid the air-conditioning project.
February 2012 – The Egyptian Theatre issues RFQ (request for qualifications) from MEP engineering firms for the air-conditioning project. A committee of Egyptian Theatre board members, staff, and community members evaluated all the proposals submitted and selected a firm deemed to be the most qualified. Design and engineering for the project began and took months to complete before having a package to put out to bid. Every possible system and installation method was explored. Experts within the community and from NIU were utilized to help evaluate the designs. The Board of Directors gave a few directives to the engineers designing the project. The project had to be affordable to install; the design had to be for a system that was affordable to operate and maintain; and the design had to protect the historical integrity of the building, making it appear that the work had always been in place since 1929. Initial estimates by the engineers after designing the project put the project cost around $1.5 million.
August 2012 – The air-conditioning project was publicly bid and 3 contractors submitted bids. The 3 bids received were $2,086,000; $2,092,354; and $2,256,000. These bids came in significantly higher than what the engineers on the project had estimated prior to putting the project out to bid. With the 3 bids being fairly close to each other, the Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors felt confident that these were accurate bids. However, the Theatre Board asked for the project to be re-bid with phases as an option to try and get the project cost down.
October 2012 – The project was re-bid and the same 3 contractors submitted revised bids. The revised bids were to only air-condition the auditorium, which was not suggested by the engineers as it would not address the public lobby areas or stage. This was an attempt to complete something with the funds that had been made available and get to a situation where the theatre could potentially be open through the summer for events. The 3 revised bids came in at $1,497,650; $1,498,500; and $1,596,340. With these costs still more than $1 million over what was granted by the City of DeKalb, the Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors had no choice but to not move forward with air-conditioning at this time.
December 2012 – After exploring all options, the Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors submitted a letter to the City of DeKalb officially requesting that the funds granted to the Egyptian Theatre for air-conditioning be used for another priority project, which was to install a sprinkler system throughout the Theatre providing 100% coverage.
March 2013 – The DeKalb City Council approved the request to reallocate the granted funds to the installation of a sprinkler system throughout the Theatre. This project was completed during the summer of 2013.
The Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors has continued searching and applying for grants for the air-conditioning project. Private foundations, state and federal grants have all been explored but no successful funding has been obtained.
Spring 2015 – With 6 years remaining for the Central Business TIF District, the City of DeKalb started working on a phase-out plan for the remaining funds in the TIF district. Aware of the importance and impact that air-conditioning the Egyptian Theatre would have, the Theatre and the City worked to develop a plan for funding this much-needed improvement. The Egyptian Theatre reached out to the design team from 2012 and asked for some updated project numbers factoring in inflation. There have been some code changes and technology advances since the design of 2012. Conservatively, the project is being estimated around $2.5 million. The design and engineering will have to be updated to meet current code and take advantage of technological advances.
June 2015 – The DeKalb City Council was asked to vote on whether to approve funding for the updated design and engineering for the air-conditioning project. The Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors was adamant about having actual numbers in front of us for all to be able to make informed decisions on moving forward. Initial funding was requested to move forward with the updated design and engineering for this project. The project would have been publicly bid to have up-to-date numbers for the basis of discussions with City Council in early 2016 to approve funding for the air-conditioning project. If the project funding had been approved in 2016 then construction would have begun and the goal was be to be completed by the summer of 2017.
Instead, the DeKalb City Council voted to approve funding for a feasibility study to see if air-conditioning was needed and if there would be a return-on-investment to the community.
Fall 2015 – A request for proposals for a feasibility study was posted and multiple proposals were submitted by consultants.
January 2016 – A final consultant proposal was presented to the DeKalb City Council and approved. The feasibility study got underway and was supposed to be completed by June 2016.
January 2017 – The final report was completed and presented to the DeKalb City Council. The study clearly identified that air-conditioning was needed, that the Theatre needs to be open year-round, that it has a tremendous positive impact on the community, and that there is significant growth potential if appropriate resources are available. There were a number of other recommendations that the Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors did not agree with and asked for some time to thoroughly evaluate the 100+ page document and provide a response to the City of DeKalb. FEASIBILITY STUDY DOCUMENT
June 2017 – The Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors presented a detailed response to the City’s feasibility study. The City of DeKalb requested a business plan from the Egyptian Theatre since the recommendations of the feasibility study were not being considered. They said this plan was needed before any significant funding could be discussed. STUDY RESPONSE DOCUMENT
December 2017 – A detailed business plan was presented to the City of DeKalb by the Egyptian Theatre. The City of DeKalb said they wanted to address what would happen to the Egyptian Theatre if the non-profit that owns and operates it were to ever dissolve. A recommendation from the Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors was made in early spring 2018 and is awaiting response from the City of DeKalb. BUSINESS PLAN DOCUMENT
Summer 2018 – The Egyptian Theatre plans to make a formal request of $2.5 million from the City of DeKalb out of available TIF funds for the air-conditioning project. The project would take 4-6 months to update drawings and plans to put out to bid. Once the project is publicly bid, the lowest bidder would be awarded the project and a timeline for completion established. Depending on when funding is approved, there is hope to have the project complete by fall 2019.
The Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors is focused on providing accurate information to the public and to the City of DeKalb. It remains our goal to be open and transparent with everything we do utilizing public funds. We are extremely appreciative of the continued support from the City of DeKalb. We are happy that they recognize the important role the Egyptian Theatre plays in the cultural and economic landscape of not only the Downtown, but the entire community.