Contractor holds Broadcast Museum mortgage

The half-built 60,000-sq. ft. Museum of Broadcast Communications’ building at Kinzie and State was given a new lease on life when Pepper Construction Co.’s foreclosure lawsuit against the MBC was dismissed in an unusual deal.

Pepper was given a mortgage of around $4.5 million in unpaid bills for construction work on the project that has been stalled since May 2006.

While the mortgage has to be paid by 2011, the agreement gives the museum time to find private donors and continue to seek state funding, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

MBC founder/president and political broadcaster Bruce DuMont says the Pepper deal buys them time to get beyond the current economy to find funding for the museum building.

Last December, the MBC board decided to sell the property as it had not raised sufficient funds from donations and events to pay Pepper and secure a construction loan.

Pepper to date has performed $7.3 million in work and was only paid $2.9 million. Construction stopped in since 2006.

The original construction was budgeted at around $20 million but would now cost $30 million to complete.

Part of the problem, DuMont claimed, was then Gov. Blagojevich’s unfulfilled promise, reportedly never put in writing, to give the MBC $8 million in state funding.

However, DuMont hopes that Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration, which has not committed, will see the museum’s construction as an economic stimulus effort and that it will be among the nation’s environmentally-friendly museums.

The MBC’s benefit gala May 16 will be salute to Warner Saunders, who retires from broadcasting the end of May after more than 40-year career.

The Nielsen Company is the gala’s major underwriter; ComEd and the Marc and Diann Burns Watts Foundation are contributing sponsors.