A trio of pitches to operate Rochester’s Historic Chateau Theatre failed to score a clear home run Monday.
“I think we could do a little better,” Rochester City Council member Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick said after hearing the three proposals.
The council heard presentations from the city’s Community Engagement Team, which represented the Music, Parks and Recreation, and Library departments; Rochester businessmen Steve Barlow and Dan Van Hook; and Threshold Arts. Each proposed a mix of daily and special event uses for the building.
Most council members said all the ideas had merit, and a couple of members suggested the teams might have benefited from the collaboration.
“There are strengths in each of these proposals,” Council President Brooke Carlson said. “What would it look like for one of these entities to be the main managing group with subcomponents that the city contracted for or Barlow’s group subcontracted for part of it?”
She pointed out that the Threshold Arts proposal includes the potential creation of an advisory group, which could include the other groups that responded to the city’s request for operation proposals.
Three other council members -- Patrick Keane, Molly Dennis and Nick Campion -- said they’d lean toward supporting the Threshold group if required to make an immediate selection.
Council members Shaun Palmer and Mark Bransford said they'd select the Barlow-Van Hook proposal if held to the three options, but they also pointed toward another path.
“I’ve been a proponent of going out for a sale on this property, and I’d like us to do a (request for proposals) out there to see if anyone has any interest,” Palmer said.
The city purchased the building for $6 million in 2016 and has used state Destination Medical Center funding for some repairs and upgrades as it considers a long-term plan for the building.
The city received one request to purchase the property in response to a call for potential operators, but City Administrator Alison Zelms said it wasn’t reviewed Monday, because it failed to meet the expectations of the request.
Campion said he believes a request seeking a buyer would yield few options.
“If there was someone out there waiting to take it over, they’d be knocking our door down,” he said.
He said he’d prefer to take a closer look at the three proposals, with city costs and responsibilities compared.
“At least one of my objectives is to get someone responsible for the facility,” he said, also voicing little support for the city departments’ proposal.
Keane also indicated he’d prefer not to have the city departments take charge of the property, with the concern it could extend the city’s commitment to funding the effort.
Two of the three proposals asked the city to purchase equipment or make upgrades to the building before operations begin.
The Community Engagement Team is asking for a $650,000 investment, and Threshold Arts is seeking $106,190 in assets and an unidentified expense for building improvements.
Barlow and Van Hook said they won’t need money for equipment and renovations, but would ask the city for a $50,000 startup loan, which would be repaid in three years.
With council members failing to land on a clear path forward, Carlson asked for city administration to return to a future meeting with a recommendation for the next steps.
“My sense is we are still a ways apart,” she said of the council following Monday’s conversation.
Jaymi Wilson, the city’s project manager coordinating the search for a Chateau operator, said she and others from the administration could bring a recommendation to the council as early as Nov. 15.
1927 — The Chateau Theatre opens in downtown Rochester as a vaudeville theater and movie house. Guests were treated to a 14th century French chateau architecture and the music of pipe organ.
1979 — John Kreusel and others start the "Worldwide Friends of the Chateau Theatre" to save the 1,488-seat theater from destruction.
1980 — The Chateau Theatre is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
1983 — The Chateau Theatre shows its last movie. A "Save the Chateau" committee collects thousands of signatures, and the building is purchased for shops and then a restaurant. It ends up in foreclosure.
1994 — Barnes & Noble opens in the Chateau Theatre.
2014 — Barnes & Noble closes.
March 16, 2015 — The city, with help from Mayo Clinic, proposes to buy the historic Chateau Theatre for $6 million.
Jan. 4, 2016 — City closes on theater purchase.
May 10, 2016 — Task force selects Miller Dunwiddie Architecture to lead the restoration and re-use project at the theater.
Sept. 20, 2017 — Chateau Theatre Reuse Task Force recommends a potential $23 million upgrade.
June 26, 2018 — Rochester’s Heritage Preservation Commission approves renovation plans to allow interim use of the building as work continues on determining final use of theater.
Dec. 19, 2018 — City puts out request for proposal for the operation and management of the Chateau for three to five years.
Feb. 15, 2019 — Five proposals are submitted, and a seven-member review team comprised of city and Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency staff begins comparing the options presented by Entourage Events Group, Exhibits Development Group, Arcades Are Awesome!, Threshold Arts LLC and Arts Trust of Minnesota.
May 6, 2019 — The review team recommends Exhibits Development Group, and the Rochester City Council approves moving forward with creating a contract.
Aug. 19, 2019 — The contract is approved and work starts on approximately $230,000 in city-funded improvements needed to meet EDG’s needs.
Aug. 29, 2019 — EDG holds an open house, announcing “The Magical History Tour,” featuring Beatles memorabilia, will be its first exhibit in the Chateau, with plans to open in October.
Nov. 23, 2019 — EDG opens the Chateau with “The Magical History Tour” as its first exhibit.
March 13, 2020 — Gov. Tim Walz declares a statewide pandemic emergency, which leads EDG to close the doors.
June 18, 2021 —The City of Rochester announces it has agreed with EDG to end the agreement for operating the theater.