City staff makes Chateau recommendation
A preferred plan for opening the doors of the historic Chateau Theatre could be identified Monday,
The Rochester City Council is slated to choose an interim operating proposal during its 7 p.m. meeting Monday, but some members have noted they do not feel obligated to make a final decision on the proposed timeline.
City staff and members of the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency are recommending the council select the proposal submitted by St. Paul-based Exhibits Development Group.
“EDG provides the highest level of activation for the space,” Rochester Deputy Administrator Aaron Parrish wrote in a report to the council. “EDG intends to provide activation 360 days a year with hours of operations from approximately 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All of these days would be open to the public.”
Access to the building was one of several priorities considered when a seven-member review team comprised of city and DMC EDA staff.
Other reasons cited for recommending the EDG proposal are its ability to bring new entertainment opportunities and partnerships to the city, as well as a stated willingness to work with local partners.
However, the council could also select a proposal from one of two other groups — the Rochester-based Arts Trust of MInnesota and the Minneapolis-based Entourage Events Group — to advance plans for use of the Chateau Theatre for the next three to five years.
Comments made by the 177 documented participants in an online city poll indicate there is support for each of the proposals.
“With the growth of Rochester now and in the coming years, it’s time for Rochester to have a music venue,” one participant wrote in supporting the Entourage proposal, which seeks to program the space with music performances, comedic entertainment, local events, and corporate functions. “A real venue, not a bar with a stage. Something that can accommodate local to (national acts). From all aspects of entertainment. Rochester is bored and needs a spot to be entertained.”
Other commenters cited a desire to see a local focus on performing arts space.
“The Rochester area is also burgeoning with theatrical talent and doesn’t have enough performance spaces, which this proposal addresses,” one commenter submitted. “ATOM will give Rochester a chance to get used to going to the Chateau for entertainment and community events, solidifying support for further development on the site for a state-of-the-art theatrical venue in the future.”
Others cited the support echoed by city staff for the EDG proposal.
“I do like the idea of bringing more culture to Rochester,” a survey participant wrote. “I feel with the large number of Mayo patients who come to Rochester, there should be really good culture and entertainment. This would also benefit the local population. Some usage should be for local artists and exhibits.”
Amy Noble Seitz, the Blooming Prairie native who founded EDG, said she plans to incorporate local partners into Chateau events if the City Council chooses her organization to operate the city-owned building.
“It’s bringing in the community to do something that engages them,” she said, noting the EDG proposal includes plans for a variety of programming beyond the exhibits in order to draw people to the venue.
She said those local connections and opportunities may have been overlooked by some reviewing the proposal.
Misha Johnson, who has taken the lead on the Arts Trust of Minnesota proposal, said she also feels aspects of the local group’s plan have been missed by some people. Among those is the group’s plan to contract with a major concert marketer to attract touring music acts, in addition to focusing on locally grown live entertainment and movies.
“We’re also proposing national concerts … which I think a lot of people are missing in our proposal,” she said.
Sankesh “Sunny” Prabhakar, the Rochester resident working with Entourage Events Group, could not be reached for comment, but has noted the organization’s experience provides the ability to offer the greatest possible activation of the building by quickly changing operations from meeting space during the day to a performance venue at night.
As the council began discussion of the proposal during a special April 25 meeting, it was unclear what emphasis members planned to put on public input, as well as a staff recommendation.
Council Member Michael Wojcik specifically asked for staff input on the proposals.
“We do have a lot of really talented people, even in this area, on staff, and I really do care what our experts and professionals think about it,” he said.
He also joined other council members in citing a desire to hear from community members related to the desired vision for the Chateau Theatre.
Council Member Patrick Keane noted early comments he received supported the local Arts Trust of Minnesota proposal, but he cited a desire to make sure they were based on the merits of the plan, rather than local ties.
Mayor Kim Norton echoed the comment. “I think it’s important that this not be a popularity contest about who has the most friends in town,” she said, noting the eventual decision will need to be about the best way to use the building to serve residents and visitors.
While the council is being asked to select a preferred proposal Monday, Parrish said the decision won’t finalize any details.
With each group asking for some public investment in further building renovations, he said any preferred proposal will simply be a starting point for negotiating a contract for operations.
“We’ll look at all those items and negotiate agreements,” he said.