Bond Money Could Help Restore NorShor Theatre

Posted at: 02/22/2013 5:07 PM
Updated at: 02/22/2013 6:11 PM
By: Maarja Anderson

The NorShor Theatre has been sitting vacant for nearly three years, but Duluth lawmakers plan to change that with a bill that would grant the theatre $5 million for renovations.

Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL), Rep. Tom Huntley (DFL), and Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL) introduced the bill in the Minnesota House on Thursday. The bill appropriates $4,950,000 from bond proceeds to the Duluth Economic Development Authority (DEDA) towards restoration of the historic NorShor Theatre.

If passed, the bill could bring organizers close to the $22 million dollars needed to fully restore the theatre.

"The bonding is important so we can get legs and move the NorShor as fast as everyone would like to see it happen," said Christine Gradl Seitz, Executive Director of The Duluth Playhouse.

Gradl Seitz said the playhouse and DEDA have been working toward the renovation for years now, but the public wouldn't be able to tell by just looking at the theatre. The City of Duluth has owned the NorShor for nearly three years, but they have made no changes inside or outside.

Chris Eng is the Executive Director of DEDA and he said it all comes down to money. If the bill goes through, they'll just have $2 million left to raise.

"We haven't done any major interior renovations because when all the funding is completed that will become part of the overall restoration of the historic theatre," said Eng.

Funding the entire project is a combination of sources, including grant money, private donations, and a tax increment that redirects tax dollars from new buildings to the NorShor.

"Overall it's a $22 million investment into the east end of downtown and we're pretty excited to see what the building looks like when it's complete," said Eng.

If this bonding bill doesn't pass, organizers will have to try again next January, or raise $7 million to make up the difference.