A decade ago, the City of Minneapolis helped move the historic Shubert Theater from Block E to its current location on Hennepin Avenue, next to the historic Hennepin Center for the Arts. Since then the theater has sat vacant, the shell of a dream: renovation into the Minnesota Shubert Performing Arts and Education Center, the Twin Cities’ first flagship for dance, and a home for the area’s diverse concert-dance companies. The facility would also house the Shubert Center’s already-thriving educational program (which teaches thousands of students every year throughout the state via IP videoconferencing technologies).
On Tuesday, the Minneapolis City Council voted to finish what it began a decade ago, by designating $2 million of its $3.6 million community development bonus under the federal stimulus act to the long-delayed Shubert.
The Community Development Block Grant is “a city approved grant that still needs to go through HUD, which is the original granting agency,” explains Colin Hamilton, executive director, Minnesota Shubert Center. “That’s about a 45-day process. We don’t think there will be any problem with HUD, even though the grant is not signed, sealed, delivered. So we’re proceeding as if we’ve received green light to move forward and start construction. We’re getting ready to make an announcement about that in the next week or so.”
Construction, he adds, will now happen “in a matter of weeks, not months.” The project will reportedly generate more than 100 construction jobs immediately; 30 full- and part-time permanent positions once the theater is operational; and more than 400 positions within the Shubert’s various arts-partner organizations will be preserved.
“People are ecstatic,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a long, hard project. To know with confidence we’re going to build and open the project is an incredible moment. Especially in this climate when it’s so hard to get anything done.”
With the $2 million secured, construction will begin on the theater itself, designed by Miller Dunwiddie. What remains in question is the link that the architectural firm designed between Hennepin Center and the Shubert, which would include a spacious lobby, audience amenities, function space (for conferences and meetings) and a glass-walled Arts Education Technology Center on the second level.
According to Hamilton, approximately $3 million is still needed to construct the link as designed. “It’s an unbelievably difficult time to borrow or raise money, so we need to be pragmatic about what is possible now. We may have to think in phases rather than doing everything at once. Our focus right now is to make sure the theater’s up and running.”
If the Shubert needs to abstain from the “destination glamour” the link provides, Hamilton continues, the theater will still achieve the project’s primary goals: to provide a home for local dance. “The theater is the star of the show. Nobody will be disappointed when they come into the theater.”