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Our View: Finally! Progress on Castle, Chateau projects

November 27, 2018

So much attention in recent years has been lavished on what’s new in downtown Rochester, in particular new hotels and apartment complexes.

But we’re equally excited about the opening last weekend of the Castle Community project, and the news that the Chateau is being prepped for a summer opening.

These two historic buildings in the downtown area could have easily fallen to the wrecking ball. Dedicated citizens and public officials, though, have stepped forward to not only save them, but to convert them to useful spaces.

The Castle takes over what was formerly the Rochester Senior Center, and before that the National Guard Armory. The building looks from the outside like a castle, hence the name of the new venue. The Castle Community will include a restaurant, a nonprofit used book shop, art studios and performance space.

There were doubters when the project was announced. But here we are, about to enjoy this wonderful new/old space in the heart of the city.

We’re looking forward to being able to say the same thing about the Chateau. The historic 1928 theater began life as a vaudeville stage and movie palace, and more recently was an atmospheric Barnes & Noble bookstore. Count us among the mourners when Barnes & Noble pulled out four years ago, and count us as equally frustrated that the building, now city-owned, has sat vacant since then.

Numerous cities across the country have turned older theaters into vibrant performance venues, and there’s no reason Rochester can’t do the same with the Chateau. Plans for the Chateau have been floated and proposed, but trying to mesh them with other developments downtown has caused delays.

Now, the Rochester City Council has approved a $1.1 million contract for initial renovation improvements, which will finally allow for interim use of the theater while final plans take shape.

An interim Chateau is better than a vacant Chateau, it is hoped, and like most everyone else, we look forward to the ultimate completion of the project. For now, it is important that citizens at least see some sign of progress with the Chateau. Getting their feet in the door next summer will be a satisfying first step.

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