The NorShor received the ban hammer from DEDA today. The building will be closed indefinitely until it meets ADA compliance.
Sucks, but I can understand the thinking behind the ruling.
That photo makes it all OK.
Comforting to know Duluthians are already Upset about it.
Another sound investment by the city.
Guess tomorrow's show is canceled?
That is a great picture, hahahahaha!
Let's hope they get in compliance soon, and help them out then!
Realistically, they are probably looking at early next year as the soonest they can come into compliance -- it's going to take some serious cash to get there. For those of you who were looking forward to the Great Lakes Underground Experimental Music Fest at the Norshor in October, we're probably looking at the fall of '11 for that.
Although spotty at times, history truly shows that no one can keep this venue open. I'm not at all a pessimistic person either. It is just really how the history reads. Let's hope 2011 changes that.
What a nightmare. I hope the city is getting legal advice on this, and not just believing what Access North says.
Welcome, angry special interest groups! Coming soon: historic preservationists stage a protest against the new, non-historic main floor bathroom that gets built to please the ADA-ers.
Maria, true preservationists are all about adaptive reuse and concern for historical accuracy is almost always limited to a building's exterior. Believe me, the preservationists in this town want that building to be a success. And please don't call Dr. Ringsred a preservationist! He may have been at one time, but he was never a good steward of the buildings he owned. Tires hiding down the roof!
It's not about "pleasing" the ADA-ers. It's about complying with federal law. The city asked Northern Access to tour the place and give an opinion -- after all, they are the experts on ADA law. Northern Access told the city the hard facts -- as a unit of government, and now title-holder of the property, they are required to meet ADA. If you were disabled, perhaps you'd understand it's a civil rights issue, not NIMBY issue. I was planning on holding a music fest in October. I'm bummed, but I understand the issue at hand and whining isn't going to fix this. Money and support will fix this.
Why does this seem a surprise now? Shouldn't the city have known this prior to the purchase?
This is just the first taste of a huge meal of reality.
Agreed Barrett. This should be a surprise to no one. The building has a massive mess of problems. Becoming publicly owned probably increases the problems.
Well stated, Tony.
I'm wondering why this wasn't an issue with the former owners (and the owners before that, et al)? Why now?
The building wasn't owned by the city and constant code violations were issues for former owners.
I remember events at the Norshor, and, I think it was Chip Stewart, bringing in porta potties and setting them up near the front entrance. Ugh. Tony's right -- this building should and can be built to code, without altering its integrity. Shit happens, but let's not blame the messenger of the bad news re the Norshor having to comply with the ADA. Like TimK says, it's the law. And it's the right thing to do. It's just going to cost a hell of a lot.
Here's an idea. Since it seems everyone would like to see the NorShor open, fundraising events that have been "postponed" could be moved to other venues (with the space donated?), concessions go to the venue, rest of proceeds to the NorShor. I have lived in other places where I've seen last minute changes in venues, it is do-able. It only takes some cooperation.
Bakesales are not enough for the Norshor. Somebody should try something like this...
That building had no problem altering its historical preservation when they decided to do away with that balcony once reserved for non-whites.
The NorShor Theatre is not on the National Register of Historic Places, so I don't think there were any restrictions on what could be done with it until it was purchased by DEDA. The NorShor is located in a historic district, but that hasn't traditionally meant much.
So, just to be clear, because it's not properly accessible to a minority of people, the majority has to suffer?
Jim: Unless you have some first-hand knowledge, there is no record of the NorShor balcony used for forced segregation. You might be thinking of the old Lyceum, which at one time did have a section of the balcony reserved for blacks only ( the unfortunate nickname for that section used by racists was "N-word's Row"). Perhaps the Orpheum had one as well.
And actually Paul, the NorShor is part of an entire historic district that is on the National Register (so was the Costello Building, which A&L tore down with the City's approval), but the National Register offers less protection than does local landmark status. Unfortunately Dr. Ringsred never took the time to have the NorShor deemed a landmark building by the DHPC/City Council.
What worries me more than ADA compliance is that I'm not 100% convinced that the City bought those buildings to "save the NorShor," but I am hoping that is a byproduct. DEDA insisted that the Temple Opera Block be part of the deal. The City for a long time has been trying to expand the Skywalk east, and that plan includes going from the Casino over Second St. and straight through the Temple Opera Block. That's something Dr. Ringsred would not allow, and I agree with him on that.
And we know that the City really doesn't care if a building they own has landmark protection or not, as witnessed by the City Council recently violating Duluth law in order to put crank-out windows in to City Hall, a landmark protected building owned by the City. They also tried to do away with the HPC due in part to the HPC's advice that the skywalk should not be allowed to go through the Temple Opera Block.
It may be a cynical path I am running down, but I do indeed worry that the City really doesn't care about what happens to the NorShor, as long as they can get their skywalk to eventually reach the Sheraton and the City-owned white elephant parking lot behind it.
I really, really, really hope I'm way off base.
Sorry, Paul--you did mention the historic district.
And it took me a while to notice, bit damn, Adam, that's some fine photoshop parody work right there, boy! You keep that right up!
The Opponent: that model (as with nearly every fundraiser in this town) ends up not paying the bands. For me, that is unacceptable.
The Orpheum did have segregated seating. It's right by the ladder to the roof.
They have already started the skywalk work in the alley behind the Greysolon.
There is no step-by-step manual on how to save a historic theater. What makes the NorShor special, unique, and worth saving are the very things that make it challenging.
It concerns me that folks proclaim defeat every time a problem comes up. You know what? There's going to be problems, lots of them - some big, some small. This is a challenging project, but it's a project worth fighting for. It's worth it to fix the problems rather than simply define the problems.
We are going to make it accessible because it is the right thing to do. It's been a serious problem with the theater for 60 years - and we're going to fix it. The question now is, do we spend energy complaining about the problem and the inconvenience of the solution OR do we appreciate that this serious problem is finally going to be fixed?
Our goal is to fix all of the problems at the NorShor. But it's not going to be easy and it's not going to happen tomorrow. And fixing problems in a historic building requires very thoughtful solutions, it takes a commitment to do it right for the long-term.
There's going to be no shortage of short-term criticism, there will be no shortage of folks saying "I told you so" based on something that everyone already knows, and the folks who are working the hardest to make this happen will be the targets of the criticism. We KNOW this is going to happen, it's a given - I expect it for any worthwhile undertaking. If you want to criticize someone for the existence of problems, that's part of my job description, so send them my way.
Hopefully there are more folks who want to see this project succeed and will both support the efforts to fix the place, but will also help keep things in perspective when the next problem comes to light.
"The Opponent: that model (as with nearly every fundraiser in this town) ends up not paying the bands. For me, that is unacceptable." -Adam
You really hit that one on the head. Why not have architects or doctors come down and do stuff for free to raise money? Why is it always poor musicians?
Building codes and regulations are changing so rapidly that by the time a large scale project finally gets built it is already out of conformance with the current codes and regulations. Relatively new buildings, such as 20 year old schools, stadiums and medical facilities to name a few, need significant upgrades if any remodeling is undertaken. It's a fact of life. It's part of the way our built environment has evolved. New or old we want to keep our buildings as safe as possible for the public. There will be challenges along the way. Attitudes for tearing down are often a waste of our limited resources. Every building embodies a precious amount of materials and energy. The greenest structure is one that was built to last. The Orpheum is one of those unique structures that can be upgraded and can last for years to come. It takes creative energy, teamwork and positive attitude.
Well said, Bob and Don.
(For those of you who don't know Bob, he's an architect.)
Well...I'm willing to play for free if it'll help open the doors of that place a bit quicker. I don't recall the last time I was paid for a gig anyway.
In Columbia Missouri there is a skate park that was built with volunteer time from a concrete company. Why not just cut to the chase and have contractors do some tax deduct- able volunteer work? I suppose in the beginning of the city owned NorShor conquest this was called for. Maybe some sort of incentive with free for life entry and drink discounts for the contractor that takes it on? Just a thought.
Just think of the free publicity this company would get. For that alone contractors should be fighting over this opportunity.
I don't think the bands should play for free. Unless, of course that is the understanding. I think having doctor's or other professionals offering their services is a great idea. If the money is going to the NorShor. Having contractor's donate time would be great. That's what I mean. If everyone wants this let's help the City of Duluth. This is our community, our city, so it is our theater. Maybe a fundraiser at Bayfront?
Mayor Ness: I am one of those "I told you so" folks. I still can't figure out why we are spending more time, energy and money on such an eyesore. Certainly the city has better things to do than police and pour money into run down buildings that should be bulldozed over. Anybody could take one look at the place and realize it is just a mess of trouble. I think it is very much like the Bridge to Nowhere and I, for one, as a taxpayer, would love to see it gone. I am not happy that my tax dollars support such a poor investment.
A bunch of contractors already "donated" time to the Norshor about 15 years ago. This was when the balcony was first turned into a separate theatre. We went in with the expectation of being paid but got stiffed by Harlan Quist. The general contractor did end up paying all the subcontractors out of their own pocket, but obviously took a hell of a hit because of it. Not to mention that with the state of the economy, especially when it comes to commercial construction work, I can't imagine there's a lot of contractors looking to work for free.
Jude, it's all in the eye of the beholder, or a matter of perspective. You can't see the value in the 'Shor that others do. I look at that building and I see no eyesore, only potential and a lot of good things already in place. I see history, culture--things you can't hang a price tag on, or replace. Maybe those things aren't important to you, but they are to many others.
I also see economic potential beyond the NorShor. Restoring and successful operation of the NorShor could become the lynchpin to a revitalized "old downtown" and could encourage other building owners to restore their "blighted" buildings as well. With any luck, an active NorShor will help lure visitors out of Canal park and into downtown, to spread that wealth around.
What good would bulldozing that building do? Would you really rather have an empty lot there? What modern building would fit in between the Temple Opera and the Hotel Duluth? (See, there's an entire district of historic buildings down there, not just the NorShor.) It's more expensive in dollars, materials, and waste to destroy one building to build another than it is to rehabilitate the older building. Please read Bob Hewitt's post for a much better reasoning than I have provided.
Bottom line: We're gonna disagree on what's an "eyesore" or a "historic treasure," so I urge you to try to think of it this way: The future proposed for the NorShor is not just about the NorShor: a lot of it is about the economic well-being of downtown Duluth and the merchants in that district. And, as pointed out many times, it will take hard work and money. Please, try to have a little patience and optimism in the mean time.
Tony D. Well-stated and I appreciate your thoughtful response. If the city of Duluth (or any of the rest of you who just love the place) would spend 20 minutes replacing the broken down sign then I just might, perhaps, maybe, have a more optimistic view. That tells me how much the city cares about appearances.
As it stands now I just feel dirty and creeped out by most of that block of run-down eyesores. Two million dollars and all of your emotional sentiment will not fix all that is broken in those old buildings. Bandaids are not going to stop the bleeding, IMHO. And I don't want to pay for the restoration of one of those old buildings when that whole block is, well, seedy. Have you even set your emotions aside for a minute and considered something other than pouring thousands of dollars into a sinking ship? History certainly upholds that the place cannot sustain itself.
Generally, I am not for tearing down buildings. Case in point the old Central School in Grand Rapids, MN. We waged a big battle to keep it there, intact. And it is a lovely building right on the corner of Hwy 2 and Hwy 169 complete with a Judy Garland Yellow Brick Road. But beauty does not the bills pay and that place has struggled to stay open. It is OLD, no matter what you do to it.
I just believe the city was sold a pile of dirty laundry and I do not want to pay for that. We weren't consulted about the purchase, but now we are expected to support the renovations? Not me.
I'm interested in how it's gonna work, not why some think it isnt!
I remember helping carry Russ Stover (in a wheelchair) up to the balcony so he could watch a show, or was he IN the show? We've waited a long time to have this venue part of our community again and a little longer isnt going to hurt anyone. Let's do it right this time! The place has needed a 1st floor bathroom since day 1! What is the current thinking on where the 1st floor bathroom (and other required) ADA compliance items will be? How can we help?
Hey Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad old theatre and make it better
Remember to let it into your heart
Then you can start to make it better
Admackbar: I love when people sing to me....thanks for that!
My question is who gave Adam the green light to book all those Thursday shows? And then they pull the plug THE NIGHT BEFORE? What about the fundraiser that was scheduled for tonight (Friday)? They were selling $20 tickets for that! Didn't Access North do their walk-through last month? Is it just a lack of communication or what the hell is going on?
Why do we need this to be a "good guys/bad guys" thing? Are we so shallow as to REQUIRE blame for every situation? Crap happens and mistakes are made. Let's figure out the difference between fight and campaign.
You wrote: " As it stands now I just feel dirty and creeped out by most of that block of run-down eyesores....  And I don't want to pay for the restoration of one of those old buildings when that whole block is, well, seedy.  Have you even set your emotions aside for a minute and considered something other than pouring thousands of dollars into a sinking ship?  History certainly upholds that the place cannot sustain itself. "
1. When was the last time you were on the 200 block of East Superior Street? Have you seen Teatro Zuccone or Zeitgiest Cafe? Beautiful storefronts, and the Cafe didn't destroy the historic elements of the old building it went in. The Temple Opera Block is still beautiful, 120 years later, and kitty-corner from that stands the newly restored Old City Hall. The owners of the former Big Lake Books (across from the NorShor) are planning changes for that as well. And if you really think the Hotel Duluth/Greysolon is an eyesore then there truly may be no hope for you on this issue.
2. Won't restoration of those old buildings make the whole block a lot less "seedier"?
3. Wanting to make the NorShor vital is not an emotional response, at least not by me. I think it makes good economic sense in the long run, but we must have patience.
4. History of the NorShor -- at least the past 30 years -- only upholds that operating a historic theater (one that is in bad shape because of a neglectful building owner) with no operating budget and little to no experience running such an establishment, is indeed unsustainable. Why assume it will be operated like that in the future? If the City can follow through on restoration plans and if the Playhouse folks can succeed in running it professionally, it has a better chance than it has at any moment during the past 30 years. Remember, that theater was vital from 1940 until the 1970s, when development "over the hill" started driving folks out of downtown.
If you dislike that area so much, then pitch in and help make the NorShor a success, because no matter how much you complain, the deal is done. The City owns the buildings. Let's move forward and make this work instead of coming up with more reasons it perhaps won't based on your irrational fear that old buildings = seedy area.
Anyone feeling despair should go on a field trip and visit the Cedar Cultural Center. It's a great place to see a show. No, not exactly pretty in appearances or by neighborhood, but a fab place to see a show nonetheless. And it's operating model is one the city could follow.
The Cedar Cultural Center
There are several issues regarding the NorShor that are far from black and white.
1) In general, some people believe the marketplace should have been left to sort this out. If private owners couldn't make it work, public ownership won't work either, right? Well, not necessarily in this specific case, but in most cases the answer would be yes. In this case, I think the answer is maybe. Defining success can be tricky, though. The millions that go into this will probably never be returned to DEDA. So it will always be possible to say this venture has failed, even if it becomes a thriving theater and stimulates other activity downtown.
The fact is, some taxpayers didn't want to buy a theater, but they got one anyway. They have a right to bitch about that. But there also should be a point where they realize that since they are already invested -- whether they wanted to be or not -- it's not going to help their investment to be forever negative about it. On the other hand, they don't want to buy more theaters (or similar operations) down the road, so they have to raise a political stink, don't they?
2) Certainly the NorShor should be accessible to handicapped people, but as long as there is a plan to make that happen with future renovations it seems silly that the place should have to close until such a time. It deprives the place of income and pulls the rug out from under the support that was beginning to build. It crushes the momentum of the project. There should have been some compromise there. I think the Blatnik Bridge should have a bike lane, but I don't think it should close until one is constructed.
3) It should be pretty easy to add main floor washrooms by placing them where the back section of the neighboring locksmith shop is. At least, that's my thought. But I can't imagine where an elevator could be placed that would open onto the mezzanine. It's something that should rightfully be done, but I think it'll take some creative minds to make it work tastefully. And the thought of running a Skywalk through there is horrifying. So historic preservationists are rightfully nervous. But since there aren't any specific plans announced on any of that, the wait-and-see-and-be-supportive-for-now attitude has rightly prevailed.
So TimK is right. There aren't good guys and bad guys. There are a lot of people who care -- either about the NorShor, about their tax dollars, about their ability to access the theater, about Skywalk promises, about the integrity of a landmark building and so on and so on.
But Jude's suggestion that the area is run down and should therefore be ignored and left to be further run down is not really productive in my opinion. It's fine to suggest the mayor and DEDA should keep their hands to themselves, but the notion that everyone should give up on an area of town that many believe is already far from run down, and actually beautiful and fun, is strange to me.
Paul: I never said that the place should be ignored, I suggested it should be bulldozed. And yes, there are some nice looking places in that area, but there are certainly a good share of seedy places and overall when I am in that area the seedy side overrides the beauty of the rest.
And yes, I am mad. And I mention again, the NorShor looks the worst of all, and I have yet to hear one solid thing that anybody in the city is doing to make it look better. A lot of "wait and sees" but nothing in the way of a business plan that I have heard. What did they do with all the money they collected from the $100 per person fundraiser? Pay the insurance? How much is the insurance per year? I bet it is staggering.
And the reason I am mad about it is because I am not very confident in how the city does business. When a city this big has reduced hours for three libraries, for crying out loud, and then they expect us to believe that it is OK to invest in this white elephant, something is very wrong.
Jude, how do you feel about how things look inside the theater?
My office in that part of downtown, and I am thrilled with the changes I've seen there in recent years. As far as I'm concerned, that's the most beautiful and interesting part of downtown, where the action is. Call me picky, but the other side of downtown, with the Holiday Center, the Library, and the Radisson seem cold and sterile to me. Those are some ugly buildings. Give me storefronts opening onto the street and beautiful old buildings any day.
I know how capable Christine Seitz and the Playhouse staff are, and how hard they've already worked to clean up the interior of the NorShor -- once the city deals with the accessibility issues (Paul's suggestions re location of the bathrooms is a good one; and if an old-fashioned little elevator, like those tiny European-style elevators holding 2-3 people, were installed in the mezzanine, maybe near that back exit, it would look cool). I think the Playhouse staff is going to do a bang up job managing the NorShor.
Give it a chance, people. I'm wondering if the city could apply for some grants to make the building accessible, while maintaining its historical integrity?
Barrett: That is a good point about seeing the inside of the building because I have not toured around inside. I disliked the building for years because of the strip club and I wanted to wait for the place to be cleaned up before I ventured inside after the city bought it. Now it's closed. I am as sentimental about things as all of you who want the building saved, but before I set my heart on supporting something, I want to know it is not a Bridge to Nowhere.
I am not hearing the city (even in Don's post, above) say they are definite about what will happen to it, only that it will take a long time and a lot of resources. If the city is serious about restoring it, then I would think they would honor those of you who have donated blood, sweat and tears (not to mention $$$) by taking a few hundred bucks to make a nice sign that says "Coming Soon, Your Lovely Old Historic Theater." I only see a broken down marquee that looks sad and neglected.
If the city brings forth a plan with dates and costs and deadlines and a clear statement of intent for the building's use, then I will take a closer look at how I feel about the renovation.
"I have not toured the inside, but I want to see a nice sign?"
It took a few days to pull together, and the link was kind of buried in the Upset Duluth thread,...
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