The reopening of downtown Rochester’s historic Chateau Theatre marks a major milestone for Destination Medical Center (DMC). This moment is not only a new beginning for the historic building, but it’s also the culmination of many years of hard work to bring the theatre back to its original glory.
The City of Rochester’s purchase of the theatre in 2015, utilizing DMC funding, along with a contribution from Mayo Clinic, kicked off a long process involving many key players to get the building ready to reopen. The Chateau Reuse Task Force, comprised of 12 city leaders, arts and history experts and community members got to work right away to plan the theatre’s restoration and long-term reuse. Minneapolis consulting firm Miller Dunwiddie Architecture helped plan the renovations along with the guidance of the Rochester Heritage Preservation Commission to ensure the building retained its historic value. In 2018, an additional $1.1 million in DMC funding went toward renovations to the space.
Exhibits Development Group (EDG) is preparing to open its first exhibit inside the historic Chateau Theatre in downtown Rochester, Minnesota on November 23, marking a new use for the beloved building. Since the theatre opened nearly 100 years ago, it has taken on many roles.
When the Chateau Theatre originally opened in 1927, the 1,500-seat venue was used for vaudeville performances, live theatre, and film. At one point, it even hosted a 3,500-pound rhino in a production of Tarzan.
The Chateau later transitioned to showing films and did so for many years. It closed in 1983 with a final screening of Star Wars. It sat empty for ten years, until Barnes and Noble purchased the facility. It opened as a bookstore in 1994 and served customers until 2014. The City of Rochester purchased the building in 2015 for $6 million, utilizing Destination Medical Center (DMC) funding, with Mayo Clinic contributing $500,000.
Amy Noble Seitz is the Founder and CEO of Exhibits Development Group, the new operator and manager of Rochester, Minnesota’s Chateau Theatre. In this video, Amy answers five questions about EDG, the preparation of Chateau to open, and the Chateau’s first exhibit, “The Magical History Tour.”
The flood-prone waterway of the Zumbro River in Rochester, Minnesota has mainly served a utilitarian function as little more than a tightly contained stormwater pathway running through downtown, with the buildings along its banks oriented away from it. In short, the Zumbro has not been seen first and foremost as an attractive and vital natural resource for Rochester’s quality of life.
Now, however, the City of Rochester and Destination Medical Center (DMC) are soliciting ideas from private developers for Riverfront Re-Imagined, in which they are seeking a broad range of redevelopment proposals on how to build out 2.5 acres of key riverfront property now owned by the city.
The site along the Zumbro’s west bank couldn’t be more strategically located to accomplish the goal of providing a vibrant new role for the river in Rochester’s future. The northerly end begins just across 2nd Street SW from the Rochester Public Library, then hugs the river as it curves to the southwest and finishes up at the 4th Street Bridge.
It currently holds a city-owned parking ramp and a retail building which could be razed as part of any redevelopment effort. The site was previously considered for a massive mixed-use project which ultimately failed to materialize; it’s indeed a spot that presents some difficult and costly challenges for most private builders.
City leaders, however, have remained optimistic about its potential partly because of its location within the DMC’s Waterfront Sub-District. This designation gives potential developers access to unique financial assistance tools which can in turn be leveraged to elicit a truly transformative project for the Zumbro riverfront.
The Destination Medical Center Corporation (DMCC) Board wrapped up its final board meeting of 2019, applauding the many accomplishments this year, with several major projects completed or nearing completion and new projects approved.
“Decisions made just a few years ago have created economic impact today,” said DMCC Board Chair R.T. Rybak. “This activity demonstrates that our early efforts to catalyze the development market and accelerate the momentum of Rochester’s economy of innovation and discovery are paying off in real time.”