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Three finalists pitch vision for future of Rochester's Chateau Theatre

Since opening, the Chateau Theatre has helped share hundreds, if not thousands of stories, and earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places.

Posted: Oct 25, 2021 8:57 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Nearly 95 years after being built, the City of Rochester is narrowing its search for a new organization to run the show at The Chateau Theatre.

While today the historic landmark sits empty, the next chapter of its story is coming into focus, with the Rochester City Council hearing pitches from three groups vying to manage the theater Monday. The organizations are Threshold Arts, Barlow VanHook, and the so-called City of Rochester Community Enrichment Team - a group led by the Rochester Public Library, parks and recreation department, and Rochester Civic Music.

The Community Enrichment Team hopes to combine the expertise and reputation of its coalition to sustainably activate the Chateau as a gathering space celebrating, engaging, and connecting the community.

"The Plan includes opportunities for city-led activities, community-led gatherings, and customer-led participation in the local economy," reads the CET proposal. "By offering a full calendar of quality, varied, and unique programming in this historic building, CET will celebrate diversity, connect people, and promote unity."

Threshold Arts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering local artists, proposes establishing the theater as a central gathering place for visitors and community members. Its vision includes retail and live event components, as well as a cafe and daily activities.

"People could grab a coffee, a bite to eat, hang out, have a meeting, view local art or a local themed exhibit in the gallery," said Naura Andersen, Founding Director of Threshold Arts. "Create this community common space again where people can come together, either in planned or unplanned instances."

The proposal by Stephen R. Barlow and Daniel Van Hook (Barlow/VanHook) focuses on attracting visitors and locals with dynamic programming, creating "a vibrant entertainment, education, and cultural hub in the Heart of the City." The duo seeks to do so with the help of community partners, and without any additional capital improvements to the theater.

"What we want to do is achieve economic sustainability, and again, cultural and economic sustainability. I think is the goal of what we want to do," Stephen R. Barlow said.

After each organization shared its vision for the Chateau, council members shared their initial reactions to the proposals, during which time the possibility of all three groups combining their expertise was floated.

"I love the Threshold Arts idea of an advisory group that brought together some of our key players that do have a vested interest in making sure that space is providing public benefit," said Rochester City Council President Brooke Carlson.

A contingency of council members also expressed interest in exploring the possibility of selling The Chateau Theater. For now, city staff has been directed to draft a recommendation on which proposal best suits the space.

An agreement between the organization chosen to operate the theater and the City of Rochester will be finalized at a future city council meeting. You can learn more about each proposal by following this link.

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