ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Final NorShor cost: $7.4 million

The Duluth Economic Development Authority learned more Wednesday about what it will take to revive the now-shuttered NorShor Theatre. Just putting a new roof on the building and repairing brick capping for parapet walls to stop worsening water da...

The NorShor
Owner Eric Ringsred said he has wanted to sell the buildings for more than a year and specifically have the Duluth Playhouse move in, but the Playhouse didn't have the funds to buy the property. (File / News Tribune)

The Duluth Economic Development Authority learned more Wednesday about what it will take to revive the now-shuttered NorShor Theatre.

Just putting a new roof on the building and repairing brick capping for parapet walls to stop worsening water damage will cost $628,000, according to Ken Johnson, president and CEO of SJA Architects.

"Phase 1 is basically to secure the shell of the building," he said.

The theater's interior also will require serious attention, Johnson said.

"The building's over 100 years old, and it hasn't had a lot of maintenance. All the wiring and mechanical systems are original," he said, noting that it will take a lot of work to bring the theater up to date.

ADVERTISEMENT

The NorShor also needs to be brought into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act before it can reopen to the public. This will involve installing

wheelchair-accessible restrooms and an elevator.

Johnson outlined this work as part of a $2.55 million Phase 2 initiative that would enable the theater to reopen on a limited basis, hosting shows on its main floor. Reopening the upper-level stage would require more investment.

A skywalk connection to the neighboring Greysolon building would add another $1.64 million to the equation, according to LHB Engineers and Architects.

When you factor in the $2.6 million DEDA paid for the NorShor and Temple Opera buildings, the total cost of the project would be $5.8 million for the theater alone and $7.4 million with the Greysolon skywalk.

Ultimate plans call for the skywalk to be extended to the west, as well, linking the NorShor and Temple Opera buildings to Fond Du Luth Casino and the Technology Village buildings at an estimated cost of about $7.5 million. Assistant City Attorney Bob Alsleson said the city is legally obligated to complete the skywalk system, due to development agreements it signed with Essentia Health and Sherman Properties, the developer of the Sheraton Hotel.

"I would really like to know how we are going to pay for this stuff," said Todd Fedora, a Duluth City Councilor who also serves on DEDA.

DEDA Executive Director Brian Hanson said the city would plan to submit a 2012 state bonding request for half the cost of the improvements. He said the city also would probably use historic renovation tax credits to cover 20 to 30 percent of the cost, with the remainder coming from local sources.

ADVERTISEMENT

"It took three pokes at the piñata to get funding for the DECC arena, which had a lot broader support," said Fedora, noting that Duluth then benefited from a more receptive state Legislature dominated by Democrats, instead of Republicans who now control both the House and Senate.

But Hanson said he believes efforts to renovate the NorShor also will draw broad public support, and the bonding request will be far more modest than the $34 million it took to build Amsoil Arena.

DEDA President John Heino suggested city staff consider selling naming rights for the new theater to a benefactor, much as the DECC did with its arena.

Hanson said that idea will be explored.

Heino said there are two ways to look at the challenge.

"Do we view this as an expense and a cost or do we view it as an investment in our community?" he asked.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.