NorShor won't reopen this year
Don't look for open doors and a lit-up marquee at the NorShor Theatre anytime soon. Duluth Economic Development Authority officials said at a meeting tonight the downtown theater will remain dark for the rest of this year and likely well into 201...
Don't look for open doors and a lit-up marquee at the NorShor Theatre anytime soon.
Duluth Economic Development Authority officials said at a meeting tonight the downtown theater will remain dark for the rest of this year and likely well into 2011.
That news came after DEDA's Executive Director Brian Hanson told commissioners he recommended a shift away from the previous plan to open the facility as soon as possible after bringing it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"Hindsight is 20/20 and we should have made a plan in the beginning," he said, referring to the city's purchase of the building in July.
Instead, events were held at the NorShor until problems with ADA-compliance cropped up in late August. Since the facility is now city-owned, it must be accessible under ADA, a civil-rights law that under certain circumstances prohibits discrimination based on disability.
The theater was closed in September and all events postponed while plans were made to construct an accessible bathroom, which was the main roadblock in holding events on the main floor.
While gathering cost estimates, Hanson said the realization that the city could invest dollars in a bathroom and figure out later that it doesn't meet the long-term needs of the facility prompted the switch in strategy.
"We struggled with this because like most people in the community we want to see this facility up and running ... but we want to do it right," he said.
Hanson also said with an overall plan, they could be ready to lobby for inclusion in a possible bonding bill in the 2011 legislative session, which could help with funding the cost of renovation.
Commissioner Todd Fedora expressed disappointment.
"This is getting worse every time I hear about it," he said. "Now we're going to carry this property dark for 2011?"
He also wondered if the city could revisit the contract with the Duluth Playhouse since they are being paid to manage a venue while it's closed.
Hanson said staff was looking into changing the contract in the interim.
Commissioners gave the go-ahead for city officials to seek the help of an expert in historic theaters to create a comprehensive plan with a deadline of mid-January for completion. At that time, commissioners said they would determine whether it made sense to invest in items that would get the theater up and running again before any major funding sources were found.
Commissioner John Heino said he didn't think anyone believed it would be easy to renovate the NorShor.
"I hope we can get some bonding," he said. "It would put an exclamation on the private support for this. I believe there are people who think (restoring the NorShor) is a good idea. It's going to take a lot of money ... but I believe if it's approached properly, we can get it done."