What the NorShor Theatre Could Look Like Under New Developer

By KBJR News 1

February 7, 2012 Updated Feb 7, 2012 at 11:26 PM CDT

DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - This week, the final touches are going on a "Memorandum of Understanding" to sell the historic NorShor Theatre in downtown Duluth.

The likely developer, George Sherman, and the Duluth Economic Development Authority have been working in partnership on what the theatre would look like when complete.

"These are some of the artistic sort of features of this theatre that are going to stay," said executive director Brian Hanson.

A hall of mirrors, intricate relief artwork, decorative glass, historic paintings, and sign-of-the-times architecture are all reasons Hanson calls the theatre a gem.

"This is how it is from the 40s to today,...Our interest will be in keeping it as more of the movie house theatre, the NorShor we know it as."

While some remnants from the building's last use as a strip club will go like a stage on the second level.

"This area could definitely be used for entertaining, but there's no reason to have a stage like that," said Hanson.

Others, like an old bar brought-in from the Iron Range, could stay.

"It has a really unique kind of art deco style as well with the way they did the angles and some of the vertical features on it," said Hanson.

Right now. the theatre is two separate stages but the plan calls for one larger theatre.

"These are the balcony seats for the NorShor Theatre and what you'll find that underneaththis stage is another four or five rows of seating yet that can serve the main theatre," said Hanson.

The second story stage would be removed so the balcony again overlooks the main stage, which would also evolve.

"The stage will thrust out a little ways. There'll be some room for orchestra in front," said Hanson.

The theatre would then seat about 800 people, but the grand venue doesn't come without some grand expenses from problems like accessibility such as getting bathrooms on the main floor level and an elevator for access to the skywalk entrance.

Traces of asbestos also line some old pipes under the theatre.

"We're not anticipating that to be a big deal. You would also, based on the age, it's reasonable to assume there's probably some lead paint in this building," said Hanson.

For Hanson, restoring the building, and keeping the lights on with a private developer will be well worth the effort.

The Duluth skywalk would also extend through the third floor of the building.

Hanson has said the past that the DEDA will be taking "a haircut" in the sale of the NorShor.

Including the price to buy the NorShor, all the required renovations to bring the building up to accessibility codes and connect the skywalk would have cost the City of Duluth more than $8 million.

Hanson expects the "memorandum of understanding" for the sale will be finished in the next two weeks.

Posted to Web by Jena Pike