The Wall Street Journal, written by Melanie Grayce West
Kevin Dolan wanted a lasting, meaningful philanthropic project for his semiretirement instead of joining friends at the golf course and tennis courts. He's passing on the "adult summer camp" routine, explains the 60-year-old international tax attorney who previously worked at Merrill Lynch and continues to work part-time at a law firm.
Mr. Dolan decided to take on something a little less "adventurous." He's building a 13,000-square-foot performance and recording space on the corner of Wythe Avenue and North Sixth Street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn that will house the Original Music Workshop, a nonprofit that aims to help both aspiring and well-known musicians and composers. To get closer to the project, he moved to Williamsburg last month.
"It's an unbelievable neighborhood. It's almost like a block party," says Mr. Dolan. "I'm the only person here, I think, who lives here that is over 35 years old, so far as I can tell."
Though Mr. Dolan has experience fundraising and has volunteered with several nonprofits, the size and scope of this project—and the roughly $8 million he's committed—sets it apart. The Original Music Workshop will operate around the clock, allowing for performance, rehearsal, recording and broadcasting of any kind of music.
"Everyone says this is a great project. It makes tremendous sense and there's such a need," says Mr. Dolan. "And the next thing is, 'Are you crazy?' And the answer is, yea, you probably have to be a little crazy to do something like this."
Mr. Dolan estimates that the project and building—the building's core and shell should be done by the end of the year—will run about $14 million total. Now, he's looking for philanthropic investors to come in and seed some $6 million for the second phase of the project. Those investors would purchase equity in the building or provide interest-free loans. The hope is that the investors will ultimately donate their "shares" of the building to the nonprofit.
The Original Music Workshop is nearly five years into development. It began with a townhouse that Mr. Dolan wanted to convert into a performance venue. That space wasn't right and then the project morphed and grew. There was a long real-estate search for the right site and a few years of seeking building permits.
Part of what keeps Mr. Dolan moving forward on the project is his lifelong love for music. He enjoys classical baroque music, composes some of his own pieces and is an organist. "I can play at your wedding and do a pretty good job," he says.
Music is part of a person's DNA and, for some, it's "almost a salvation," says Mr. Dolan. "The notion has been for quite a while to help the musician and composer community, particularly the younger folk. If you support them you support the art form."