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Five groups submit proposals to reuse Rochester's Armory building

Five groups submit proposals to reuse Rochester's Armory building

Five separate groups have submitted proposals for the reuse of the historic Armory building in downtown Rochester. The deadline to submit applications was this past Friday. The city-owned building, which dates back to 1915 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, has sat empty since the fall when the senior center moved into its new 125 Live facility. The valuation of the building is estimated at $675,000; the two adjacent parking lots have a combined estimated value of $1.5 million. 

The applicants are:

  • Robert “Bucky” Beeman & Tasos Psomas
  • Entourage Events Group & the Fine Line Music Café
  • The Arts and Cultural Initiative
  • Titan Development & Investments and Kraus Anderson
  • Castle Community (Ross Henderson, Scott Hoss, Leyzer Topel, Naura Anderson and Rick DeVoe)

We contacted all five groups to get more information on each proposal. (Only names, not the full proposals, are available through a public data request.) Reached over the weekend, Beeman declined to provide additional information on his proposal. A spokesperson for Titan did not respond to our request for comment.

We were, though, able to connect with representatives from the other three groups. Below is a summary of each proposal. According to City Council President Randy Staver, the council will review the proposals at a Committee of the Whole meeting on June 5.

Live Music and event space

Entourage Events Group and the Fine Line Music Cafe, both out of Minneapolis, would purchase the building outright and transform it into a multi-use event center (graphic above) for musical performances, weddings, comedy events, galas and more.

Renovations would be made to restore the classical finishes of the structure and preserve the building's facade. On the inside, the most noticeable change would be the removal of the 2nd floor offices.

Photo: Armory / Med City Beat

With the proposed changes, the capacity of the Armory would be about 1,500 people. In addition to local events, the goal is to program the space with concert tours and other entertainment options.

"The fact is that we are running out of venues to hold the events that our residents and visitors would like to see," said Sankesh "Sunny" Prabhakar, the local representative on the project. "We are not only proposing building a venue, but also programming the venue to bring incredible value back to the city of Rochester."

The Fine Line Music Cafe is located in the heart of the Warehouse District in downtown Minneapolis. Founded in 1987, the venue now hosts more than 120 shows per year. Entourage Events Group manages several Twin Cities' venues and has a full sales and booking staff in-house. Both Entourage and Fine Line have experience in restoring and preserving historic structures.

Restaurant and book store

A second group, using the name "Castle Community," has a vision for a restaurant, independent book store, indoor park area and studio space for artists  all under one roof.  

"For us, this project is about creating a community asset," said Ross Henderson, one of five individuals working on the proposal. "A space like no other in Rochester. A place for various audiences to connect and experience what our rich arts and culture community has to share."

If all goes to plan, the restaurant would be located on the first floor. It would serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner with a menu focused on fresh, locally-sourced food. Henderson would not say who was behind the restaurant, but said they have secured a commitment.

Graphic: Submitted

The second level would offer 2,000 square feet of public indoor park space and a book store; the latter of which would be owned and operated by Rick DeVoe of Fair Trade Books in Red Wing. On the same floor, there would be 10 artist studios available for rent.

"Artists will have access to shared resources, and due to the collaborative nature of the space, will become resources for one another and the community," Henderson said Monday via email. "This space will be programmed by the member artists and will also include a small retail space for consignment artwork, art supplies, and unique locally produced gifts."

Finally, the top floor would feature one large event space, an art gallery and a large studio/makers space available for community groups to meet and work. 

Arts and culture space

The Arts and Cultural Initiative is back again after being rejected the first time around. According to Debi Neville, the group's chair, the format and reasoning are the same as the previous proposal. The big difference is the increased number of individuals and organizations that have committed to leasing space in the Armory.

Under the plan, ACI would lease the building from the city, and in turn for a yearly subsidy, provide affordable space to artists and cultural groups from throughout the city.

The long-term goal, according to Neville, would be to find a commercial tenant for the first floor and become financially sustainable after five or six years. However, ACI has "no means whatsoever to purchase the building," said Neville.

Since their last time in front of the council, the group has also formed a board and solicited the help of the Rochester Art Center and Rochester Civic Theatre. Their ultimate goal is to create a multi-generational facility that provides space for classes, workshops, meetings, gallery showings and cultural events.

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