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Our view: First decision on future use of Chateau comes next week

April 19, 2019 GMT

Perhaps no building has been the topic of more discussion in recent years in Rochester than the Chateau Theatre.

The former movie palace/vaudeville stage/bookstore was purchased by the city in January 2016 and has been vacant since then. Renovations are underway to allow the Chateau to be usable starting this summer.

But who’s going to make use of it?

That’s the question the Rochester City Council might answer following an April 25 special meeting.

Last Monday, the council pared the list of proposals for interim operation of the Chateau down from five to three. Dropped from further consideration were the group that operates the nearby Castle Community (former armory), and the Arcades are Awesome! proposal.

Three proposals remain on the table, although details about exactly what they would bring to the Chateau and the community have not been made public. They are:

• Arts Trust of Minnesota, a Rochester-based organization that would apparently offer theater programs and space for local arts groups.

• Entourage Events Group, of Minneapolis, which would program live entertainment.

• Exhibits Development Group, of St. Paul, which assists museums and exhibition organizers with traveling exhibits.

It is assumed more details about each group’s proposal will be unveiled in the presentations made to the City Council on April 25.

Keep in mind that these proposals are only for the next three to five years. During that interim period, the city will have an opportunity to discover what kind of programming works in the Chateau, what audiences want to see, what promoters want and need, and what makes most sense for the long-term use of the historic theater.

Until all of that becomes clear, the Chateau is a blank canvas on which any number of local citizens and officials have sketched their hopes and dreams.

Given the right mix of programming and audience, the Chateau can return to its former role as a center of entertainment in the heart of the city.

If that’s going to happen, the first step will come with the council’s decision next week.

We would bet, though, that the Chateau will remain a favorite topic of local conversation for years to come.