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Threshold Arts gets the nod for operating Chateau Theatre

Rochester council directs staff to negotiate a contract with the nonprofit for potential activation by spring.

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Chateau Theatre marquee
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ROCHESTER – Threshold Arts will be given an opportunity to operate the historic Chateau Theatre.

The Rochester City Council voted 5-2 to have staff work with the nonprofit to draft a three-year contract, which could be ended early if a long-term use for the building is defined.

“Threshold will help us understand more about what that space can be used for,” Council President Brooke Carlson said during Wednesday’s council meeting. “It isn’t necessarily only one use that we aim for.”

She said the goal is to get the building operating by spring to coincide with new uses of the renovated Peace Plaza.

Threshold Arts was among three groups that presented plans to operate the city-owned building last year. Plans call for a variety of arts and cultural exhibits, alongside retail and community spaces, with the ability for private rentals.

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Council member Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick, who represents the ward that includes the Chateau, cited concerns regarding an undefined outcome related to the Castle Community , which housed Threshold until the pandemic forced it to temporarily close its doors.

With Threshold Arts unable to operate under state COVID-19 restrictions, Castle Community owners rented space in the former Armory’s second and third floors to Echo Church. That arrangement has led the city to order the owners to comply with an agreement that the building at the intersection of North Broadway Avenue and Second Street be used as a community cultural and arts space for a designated period.

The outcome remains unclear, since the city extended its compliance order, and the first floor tenant Cameo at the Castle , has filed a court complaint regarding alleged violations of the restaurant lease it signed with Castle Community and Threshold Arts.

“I’m uncomfortable with rushing ahead on activating this space as long as we don’t know the status of the vendor, Threshold Arts,” Kirkpatrick said, noting the group could end up returning to the Castle if Echo Church leaves.

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Naura Anderson, Threshold’s founding director, has stated she believes the organization can operate out of its current 311 S. Broadway storefront, the Castle and Chateau Theatre at the same time, with each location offering unique opportunities to connect residents and visitors with the arts.

Kirkpatrick was joined by council member Shaun Palmer in opposing a Threshold agreement. Palmer sought to have the city’s library, parks and music departments operate the facility.

Kirkpatrick suggested a one-year agreement with Threshold, but Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish said the shorter term would provide challenges.

“That’s not really in alignment with activation as an event space,” he said, pointing out Threshold would need to make some investment in the space and bookings could extend beyond a year to recoup expenses.

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He said city staff could discuss including options for an early end to the contract if a long-term plan emerges. However, he also said it would likely take more than two years to develop such a plan.

The council is expected to be presented with a negotiated contract with Threshold Arts at a later meeting.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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