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Launched in 2014 by journalist Sean Baker, Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Inside Rochester's castle restoration, art reigns supreme

Inside Rochester's castle restoration, art reigns supreme

Castle Community, located at 121 North Broadway, will begin renovations this summer and plans to be open for guests by November. Previously an armory for the Minnesota National Guard, and more recently a senior center, the building is distinguishable by its Medieval-inspired structure. Yet, despite its archaic foundations, Castle Community will reflect the innovative and modernizing ethos of Rochester. 

The nearly $2 million project will dedicate an entire floor to enriching the Rochester art scene. A regularly-updating art supply boutique will be the first dedicated art store in the downtown area. Additionally, local art will be on sale, along with a gallery for viewing traveling art. Private and public art studios will be available for rent. “Creating art in a group setting can help an artist see their work in a completely different way,” said Naura Anderson, who is leading the team's art focus.

According to historical archives, the armory used to host dances on the weekends, making it a hot spot for local teens in the middle of the 20th century.

Castle Community will come with a full restaurant, 44 North. Like the rest of the building, the restaurant will be constantly evolving. With a seasonally-rotating menu and weekly specials, customers can have a unique experience each time they visit. The food will have a strong focus on local ingredients applied to international dishes. “Think of it like the greatest hits from around the world,” said Scott Hoss of the Castle Community team. 

Bookstores have been noticeably absent from downtown Rochester since Barnes and Nobles left at the end of 2014, but Castle Community plans to change that. Fair Trade Books, already with one location in Red Wing, will sell high-end used books, magazines and vinyls at an economical price. Customers may also enjoy frequent author appearances, including passage readings and book signings. The store values strong customer-to-owner relationships to increase a feeling of individuality.

“Fair Trade Books will really operate as more of a boutique than a commercial industry," said Anderson. "The owner [Rick DeVoe] tailors his store to what the community is responding to."

Rendering of the third floor concert hall

Featured on the top floor of Castle Community is a concert hall, complete with a dance floor. “The size of the space itself provides a lot of flexibility.” Anderson added. The room will fit roughly 200-450 seats — perfect for rising local bands and just the right size to bring in musicians from larger cities like Chicago and Minneapolis. “It provides middle-range seating between the average coffee shop performance and a major concert hall like the [Mayo] Civic Center,” said Hoss. Performances will have an entrance fee to support the musicians. However, the concert hall isn’t just for musicians — expect to see visual arts, theater, poetry and comedy as well. “The goal is to reach all different age groups and demographics,” Anderson commented.

She added, "We want to be the thing you have to see in Rochester."

Sid Clarke is a student at Mayo High School, where she is president of the Literature Club. In the past, she has been a columnist for the Post Bulletin and an independent novelist. Sid finds writing inspiration from Shakespeare, Stravinsky and Metallica. 

Cover: Rendering of the second floor common area and art studios

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