Duluth mayor flips switch on NorShor fundraisingDuluth Mayor Don Ness relit the marquee of the NorShor Theatre on Tuesday night and attempted to launch a local fundraising campaign to save one of the city’s most iconic venues.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
Duluth Mayor Don Ness relit the marquee of the NorShor Theatre on Tuesday night and attempted to launch a local fundraising campaign to save one of the city’s most iconic venues.
So far, he said local supporters are about 40 percent of the way toward their $2 million goal, having donated about $800,000 to renovate the theater.
The city also is seeking nearly $5 million in state bond money for the project. Developer George Sherman expects the total cost of restoring the theater — and the attached Temple Opera building — will be in the neighborhood of $24 million.
But Duluth could face some stiff competition for state aid from another theater.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced Monday that he will seek about $6 million in bond money from the state to renovate the now-vacant Palace Theatre in downtown St. Paul.
Both the Palace and the NorShor were built in the 1910s, but Ness said he’s not worried about going up against another historic theater in a larger city. He contends Duluth will be able to make a very strong case for the NorShor.
“The NorShor is the last remaining historic theater left standing in Duluth. The state has helped restore a number of historic theaters in Minneapolis and St. Paul already, but this is our last and only chance here in Duluth,” Ness said.
Ness expressed confidence the city’s bonding request for the theater will receive strong support from the Legislature and the governor’s office.
“We had a great meeting with the governor’s office last week,” he said.
But the purpose of Tuesday night’s marquee-lighting event and reception at the NorShor was less about drumming up support for state bond money than it was about raising local money.
Ness said plans now call for work on the theater to begin in summer 2014, with the goal of completing the job by the end of 2015.
He hopes to have state bond money secured by April or May, and as construction nears, Ness predicts excitement for the project will build, lending new momentum to local fundraising efforts.
Sherman said that given the size of the project and the $5 million to $6 million yearly economic benefits it is expected to bring to Duluth’s Old Downtown, “I think asking for $2 million is realistic.”
“This could be an economic engine for the city of Duluth,” said Sherman, noting that the theater is expected to draw more than 100,000 people annually.
Ness praised the developer for his commitment to the project, saying: “George Sherman sees the potential for this part of downtown Duluth. He is the driving force behind this.”
Sherman already has placed a big bet on the success of Duluth’s Old Downtown by constructing the Sheraton Hotel, purchasing and improving the Greysolon Plaza Building and now pushing the NorShor Theatre project forward.