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Exhibits group wins bid for the Chateau

Exhibits group wins bid for the Chateau

The City of Rochester is moving forward with a proposal from Exhibits Development Group to take over operations of the Chateau Theatre.

The city council voted 6-1 Monday to direct staff to begin negotiating terms with the St. Paul-based organization. Only Council Member Shaun Palmer, who favors selling the building, voted nay.

Council President Randy Staver applauded all three groups that came forward, but said what separated the exhibits’ proposal from the field was that it would bring something unique to Rochester.

“It is not something I really recall seeing in Rochester,” Staver said of the proposal, which would bring traveling exhibitions of art, science, history and popular culture to downtown (“Beyond Rubik’s Cube” and “A Beatles Memorabilia Exhibition” have been cited as examples).

City administration had recommended the EDG proposal, citing the capital cost required — it was the lowest of the three proposals — along with how often it would be open to the public — 360 days a year.

“They are projected to bring the largest number of people through that area,” Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish told the council.

In supporting the EDG proposal, Councilor Mark Bilderback noted the concept would not compete with nearby venues, such as the Castle. The two other finalists for the Chateau had proposed entertainment and events.

“I think it is important that we try to help, not compete with the Castle and that group,” said Bilderback.

Patrick Keane, who introduced a measure in favor of an alternate proposal, from Arts Trust of Minnesota, said he would rather the council support a use that has more connection to local groups. He noted the importance of activating the space “as much for local people as for visitors.”

Despite rejecting the Arts Trust proposal, council members, along with Mayor Kim Norton, voiced support for working with the coalition of local partners to find additional space in the city for the arts.

“I am committed to working with the arts community to continue to create different venues,” said Mayor Norton. “I think it is clear that people in the community are passionate about doing that… and I would just like to say publicly that I am with them. I think we have some venues in town that we can continue to enhance and meet their needs.”

With the OK from the council, city staff will now begin negotiations with EDG on a contract for the next 3-5 years of activation. The organization plans to cover all expenses beyond the initial capital investment.

The city hopes to have renovations on the Chateau complete by mid-June. It could, however, take several more months for EDG to prepare for opening.

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