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City proposes to buy Chateau for $6 million

The city of Rochester, with some help from Mayo Clinic, plans to buy the historic Chateau Theatre in downtown Rochester for $6 million.

Chateau Theatre in downtown Rochester, 1980.

The city of Rochester, with some help from Mayo Clinic, is proposing to buy the historic Chateau Theatre in downtown Rochester for $6 million.

The deal was announced by city officials at a noon press conference today in front of the 88-year-old theater in the Peace Plaza, along with Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Mayo CEO Dr. John Noseworthy. Smith is also chairwoman of the Destination Medical Center Corp. board.

Though no documents have been signed, a draft purchase agreement has been developed and the City Council will take it up at its April 6 meeting. That will trigger a 60-day comment period before the deal is complete.

The building has been vacant since the Barnes & Noble Bookstore closed Dec. 31.

"I am pleased to announce today the city's intent to purchase the historic Chateau Theatre," Mayor Ardell Brede said, resulting in applause and cheers from a crowd of onlookers.


The city of Rochester would spend $5.5 million, which may eventually be credited as part of the city's contribution to DMC, and Mayo Clinic has pledged to donate the remaining $500,000 needed to purchase the 88-year-old theater.

"Mayo Clinic is pleased and honored to be part of this great day," said Mayo Clinic President and CEO John Noseworthy.

Rochester City Council President Randy Staver said city officials talked about buying the building soon after Barnes & Noble announced it would close. He said city leaders agreed the Chateau Theatre could play a key role in DMC redevelopment downtown. DMC is the $6 billion initiative aimed at transforming the city into an international destination for medical care.

Staver said it also would be a major step in helping to preserve a valued piece of the city's history.

"A lot of the sentiment we've heard from the community in the past is that we've not paid attention, perhaps, to preserving some of our historical artifacts. And I think the Chateau just represents for many in the community an iconic element," he said.

The Chateau, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1927 and renovated in 1994, when Barnes & Noble moved in. It's owned by Dowel-Lieberman, a real estate development and investment company, based in Morristown, N.J.

The Chateau building's value (not the land) has been assessed at $2.88 million, according to Olmsted County property records. In 2004, the property sold for $6.14 million.

Staver said at the news conference there's no plan for how the building might be used, and a process will be arranged to get the community involved in the theater's future.


"There are no preconceived ideas what it would be," Staver said.

Smith praised the city's decision to buy the building, noting that every great city has a prominent landmark — whether it's the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco or the Empire State Building in New York City.

"Here in Rochester, Minnesota, we have of course Mayo Clinic and we've got the Chateau Theatre," Smith said. "Thanks to the foresight of the city of Rochester and Mayo Clinic, this iconic building will be part of the heart of the city forever more."

The Post-Bulletin has a Dialogues public meeting set for Thursday on the future of the theater. The hour-long informal discussion will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Rochester Public Library auditorium. Joining Managing Editor Jay Furst on a panel for the discussion will be City Council Member Mark Bilderback, historic preservation advocates John Kruesel and Kevin Lund, Erin Dorbin of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, and others.

which-of-these-would-you-like-to-see-the-chateau/poll_02fa4b54-cbf7-11e4-afa6-db3994434594.html Which of these would you like to see the Chateau Theatre made into? Which of these would you like to see the Chateau Theatre made into?

Answer Man: 'Possible purchase' is big news for Chateau

Future of Chateau is Dialogues topic

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