1010 Madison St.

An Oak Park theater company is looking to grow and wants as much as $1.4 million from the village to set the stage for an expansion.

The Madison Street Theatre — located at 1010 Madison St., and formerly known as Village Players — is eyeing grand plans. They’d like public money to renovate the space and possibly add a learning center next door.

Tom Wendorf, president of the theater’s board, implored the village to make a contribution to the company during a meeting Monday. He painted a picture of a revitalized Madison Street, where people flocked to the area to attend blues festivals and patronize restaurants.

The 50-year-old theater company is getting by right now, he said, but one huge mishap with its building could put them out of business.

“We’re like the family that has no health insurance and we’re one bad health emergency away from being homeless because we haven’t got the money to take care of whatever problem we have,” he said.

Wendorf offered the village three possible levels of support, from as much as $1.4 million to help buy the frame shop next door, to nothing, which he predicted would lead to the theater “going dark” in five years or less. He said he first approached village officials with the idea in January, but little has happened since.

Village Manager Tom Barwin said Oak Park may schedule a conversation with the theater sometime next year. However, he didn’t paint a rosy picture for the high-level $1.4 million request.

Oak Park’s Madison Street tax increment financing district has a balance of about $7.7 million, at a time when the village may redo the street, which could cost as much as $17 million. Barwin said village hall has considered spending 10 percent of the TIF total, or $770,000, on individual business initiatives.

“That has to be put on the table with all the other Madison Street needs and strategies,” he said.

Oak Park did, however, OK a $15,000 grant toward the theater on Monday, to help fix its roof.

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