They were set to decide Wednesday on some of the enhancements for the Carmel Performing Arts Center, a building intended to last for centuries after it's complete in 2010.
Redevelopment leaders first want to know whether they can afford any upgrades with the $80 million in public money borrowed for the project, plus money Mayor Jim Brainard has raised from private donors -- a figure that some say will be critical in making their decisions.
Brainard's goal is to raise about $50 million in private money for upgrades, along with a $10 million endowment and about $1.3 million in pre-opening operating costs.
Almost three years into the fundraising campaign, Brainard has announced he's raised a little more than $2 million toward the goal from a business, an anonymous donor and an in-kind contribution from developer Pedcor. He has refused to give an update since last September.
Executives from at least two companies -- Conseco insurance companies in Carmel and Northside homebuilder Gene B. Glick Co.-- say the mayor has approached them for funding. Glick has not yet committed funds, and it was not immediately known whether Conseco executives had donated.
Willem Brans, a consultant the city hired for the fund-raising effort, also has kept any progress quiet. That's a common strategy, he said, in this phase of the campaign, when fundraisers are seeking donors willing to give eight-figure gifts.
"These kinds of discussions take a long time -- they require extensive conversations and presentations with the donors," Brans said. "That's something that's very difficult to accomplish in the public eye."
But some members of the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, which will vote on the upgrades, say without knowing money is available, it's harder to move forward with important choices for the hall.
"I need to know I can pay for what I contract for," said Rick Sharp, the City Council president and one of five members of the commission. "Knowing what I know today, it would be very difficult for me to commit to additional expenditures on what I call 'if-come funding.' "
Bill Hammer, another commissioner, agrees. He said fundraising is among factors to consider in making choices about upgrades.
"The key thing is making sure we stick to the budget," Hammer said.
To be continued in next post