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Negotiations to bring Forest Park’s Circle Theatre to a warehouse in neighboring Oak Park have fallen through, meaning one of the village’s longtime cultural icons will remain on Madison Street for at least another two years.

The theater’s artistic director, Kevin Bellie, pointed at two primary issues for halting what appeared to be an inevitable relocation. A fundraising effort that sought to raise $500,000 was moving too slowly to meet the theater’s calendar, and lease negotiations with the Oak Park property owner proved “difficult.”

“The biggest disappointment is that people put a lot of work into this and it couldn’t be realized,” Bellie said Friday.

Circle Theatre will remain in the Hain Building at 7300 Madison St. through the end of its current lease agreement, which expires on Oct. 31, 2010. The critically acclaimed performance group was lured to the Oak Park location at 217 Harrison St. with the promise of $212,000 in grant money from the village. Those funds would have helped offset renovation and operating expenses.

The Hain Building has been home to Circle Theatre for roughly 18 years. Following the sale of the property at the end of last summer, there were doubts that the group would be able to afford an increase in its rent once the building was rehabbed, as planned by the new owner, Art Sundry.

Earlier this year Sundry had said he was willing to consider letting the theater out of its lease agreement a year early to facilitate its relocation to Oak Park. However, Sundry said Friday that he received an e-mail from Bellie last week informing him that the theater intended to stay.

“My intention is to do a 100-percent gut rehab of the building,” Sundry said. “There’s no way for me to address them staying or going. It would be harder to do that around them, but anything’s possible.”

The theater intends to continue with its productions as scheduled, said Bellie, and is contacting donors who contributed to the group’s recent fundraising effort.

For complete coverage, please see the June 4 issue of the Forest Park Review.