Fundraisers seeking contributions toward a new Robert Crown center have obtained pledges of over $935,000 and “a dollar for dollar matching gift” bringing the total pledged to over $1.9 million, according to a report presented to City Council on Aug. 15, by City CFO Marty Lyons.

The fundraising efforts, said Mr. Lyons, fall right in line with goals and expectations. As a result, the City asked for, and received from Council, the authorization to issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) seeking architectural design services for the new Crown Center.

The City anticipates architectural design to cost about $2 million. According to the staff report, the City and the Library plan to borrow, in the form of municipal bonds, $12.5 million. With private donations a hoped-for $5 million, the total cost of the project appears to be coming into focus.

Mr. Lyons told Council that the Robert Crown Foundation had filed for IRS 501(c)(3) status, calling the move a “key component” of the fundraising drive. “It will take a while for it to get approved,” he added.

According to the timeline presented by Mr. Lyons, the City will review responses to the RFQ and expects to select a firm by November, 2016. Thereafter, the firm will generate schematic designs in anticipation that construction would begin sometime toward the end of 2017.

“Some might be dismayed by” the November, 2017, date, but “it does take that amount of time,” said Mr. Lyons. The Crown Committee will “come back to Council each step of the way,” he said.

To date, the City has yet to receive any cash donations. Once the 501(c)(3) is established and donors permitted to write off gifts on their taxes, cash will start to accumulate, the City says. For now, the City must proceed with only pledges and promised gifts.

The designs presented so far have been purely concept drawings. The detailed plans to come from the selected architectural firm will bring a level of reality to the project lacking to date, and most likely the final design will bring with it increased enthusiasm and donations.

Meanwhile, the Crown Committee continues to meet regularly, said Mr. Lyons.

One resident rose to speak out against the lack of transparency from the City regarding the project so far. “I feel very uninformed and left out of this process,” said Kelly McCabe, who said she lives just steps from the park. “What are we designing or developing?” she asked.

The City is developing “plans for a renovation/rebuild project,” replied Mr. Lyons. “Going forward, we will have a lot more communication,” he added. He referenced a dedicated website and listserv as the project moves forward.