On Saturday Eric Ringsred signed a purchase agreement to sell the Temple Opera Building, NorShor Theatre, and NorShor Annex to DEDA for $2.6 million. The sale is contingent on approval by DEDA and the Council. It’s my intent to make the NorShor the crown jewel of the downtown, to make it the center of a regional arts and entertainment district.
There is a lot of discussion on this, let me fill in with a few thoughts:
1) It’s important to point out that we are NOT using city general fund dollars that could be used for streets, libraries, or general services. The dollars we are using are dedicated for economic development and specifically to the redevelopment of the downtown waterfront. In my mind, there is no other expenditure that would make a more positive impact on downtown than the purchase and rehab of the NorShor.
2) This is a fair price for both the City and Eric. Given our analysis on comp value with other recently sold buildings and of historic theaters in the state (and in consideration of the condition of the building) we estimate the value to be between 2.5-2.8 million. Eric has turned down more money for individual pieces in the past.
3) All of the leases in the Temple Opera and NorShor Annex will be honored. There is a great mix of office and retail tenants there and we want that to continue. As a former tenant of Eric’s (when Laura and I started Vintage Duluth) I know that he treated his tenants fairly. It is my goal that we continue that.
4) The City is committed to making the theater a center for the arts and to working with local arts organizations (absolutely including the Playhouse) to create and support that vision. It is a bit premature to state what the Playhouse’s position is since they have not yet discussed it within their board. But clearly Eric wants to see the Playhouse involved down there, so do I.
5) It’s my goal to work with a private arts organization to run a capital campaign to raise $2 to 2.5 million to support the renovation. Since it is in public ownership, the project would be eligible to seek state bonding funds as a match to the private donations / foundation support. Imagine what we could do with a full $5 million renovation of this theater and restoration of the historic building!
6) Eric Ringsred, Tim Nelson, and Rod Raymond all deserve a lot of credit for making this happen. Rod & Tim assisted in starting the conversations and exploring various ideas. Eric loves these buildings, he has put his life into them, but in the end, I think he saw the value of what we are proposing. And he was willing to do his part.
7) If you support this, let your city council know it. Drop a line to [email protected] and let them know why you support it. The Council will meet next Monday night and will consider this agreement. If it passes, the closing will occur on May 14th.
8) The NorShor will continue to operate until that time, including the Retribution Gospel Choir and TBT shows on Saturday night of Homegrown. I’m looking forward to that show as the start of a new era at the NorShor – a re-commitment to the arts in the NorShor.
Feel free to e-mail me at [email protected] if you have any follow up questions.
I think this is a very exciting day for Duluth and for downtown arts. There are so many positive things happening in Old Downtown, this is going to add to that momentum.
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