Exhibits get Chateau nod
Exhibits Development Group received the nod for the potential operation of the historic Chateau Theatre for the next three to five years.
The Rochester City Council voted 6-1 Monday to instruct city staff to negotiate an agreement with the St. Paul-based company.
“They made a very compelling presentation, and I thought it was unique,” Council President Randy Staver said of the group that proposes using the Chateau for a variety of exhibits, which are expected to also include opportunities for local events and performances related to the subject of each display.
Approval of the Exhibits Development Group was recommended by city staff, as well as members of the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency, based partially on its proposed level of activation.
“They are projecting to bring the largest number of people through that area,” Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish told the council.
Several council members who supported the final vote said it wasn’t their first choice among the three proposals presented 11 days earlier.
Council Member Patrick Keane said he favored the pitch by the Rochester-based Arts Trust of Minnesota, which was formed to specifically propose using the Chateau Theatre for live theater and other entertainment.
“I would rather support a local proposal that has more outreach to the local community,” he said.
However, a vote on the Arts Trust of Minnesota proposal failed, when only Council Member Michael Wojcik joined Keane to support the trust.
Council Member Nick Campion said he initially favored the option presented by the Minneapolis-based Entourage Events Group, but said he was swayed Monday by fellow council members’ comments.
He said his change of support was largely based on a desire to make sure the Chateau was put into use as soon as possible.
“I think it’s critical we have something in that space,” he said.
Council Member Shaun Palmer was the only council member to remain silent on the three proposals prior to votes. He opposed both options that were put to a vote.
Following the April 25 presentations, Palmer said he favors selling the Chateau.
Parrish said it’s uncertain when the Chateau would be open if the city reaches an operating agreement with Exhibits Development Group, noting the final contract will be subject to future council review.
He said he anticipates the building could be activated at some level this summer, even if full use is delayed by additional renovations.
When the city developed an agreement with the Castle Community, which purchased the former city-owned armory in 2017, it took two months between the first council decision and final approval of the sales agreement.
While the Exhibits Development Group agreement won’t involve the sale of the building, Parrish has said several issues need to be discussed, including the requested $230,000 in further public investment in the building.
Additionally, the DMC Corp. board will be asked on May 23 to support the council’s decision and consider the option of using state DMC funds for additional Chateau renovations.
“This is really advancing us to the agreement negotiation phase, which may or may not be successful,” he said.
Whether or not an agreement is reached with Exhibits Development Group, Mayor Kim Norton and several council members voiced a desire to keep working with Arts Trust of Minnesota to seek a potential venue for performing arts.
“I’m committed to working with the arts community to create different venues,” Norton said. “I think it’s clear in the community that people are passionate about doing that.”
Others echoed the desire to ensure added space is created for arts in the future, even noting the potential for using the Chateau after the contract with Exhibits Development Group ends.
“The future usage was going to be theater, and that is why I thought the ATOM proposal fit in better for the learning of how this would work or wouldn’t work,” Keane said, referring to a proposal developed by the Chateau Theatre Reuse Task Force.
Parrish said the task force proposal could still be enacted as a future step, after potential funding options for $23 million in proposed renovations, as well as funding operations, are studied.
“This approach really is an opportunity to advance toward a vision like that more organically,” he said.