Eight years after the process began and 19 months after the start of restoration and revitalization, the historic NorShor Theatre officially reopened Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to signal the start of a new era in downtown Duluth.
While the lighted marquee at 211 E. Superior Street doesn’t appear all that different from the past, inside are many stunning examples of the $30.5 million investment in a classic Art Deco theater that dates to 1910. They include a large stage, main floor and balcony seating, lounges, rehearsal and educational spaces, a Skywalk connection and more.
“This is a momentous day for the NorShor Theatre and Duluth! This theatre represents hope and vision and has been a capsule collecting a century’s worth of memories and historic moments. We are honored to celebrate a new era where history is made again in the heart of our downtown,” said Duluth Mayor Emily Larson. “Many in our community worked hard to preserve one of the last theatres of its kind in the country, spurred on by former Mayor Don Ness, and the result is a venue unmatched anywhere in the country. The NorShor is a shining example of great foresight, leadership, perseverance and patience.”
Leading the redevelopment were the City of Duluth; Duluth Economic Development Authority (DEDA); Sherman Associates, a Minneapolis-based developer with much experience in historic restoration; and the Duluth Playhouse.
“The financing structure needed to bring the NorShor back to life was one of the most complex developments we’ve ever had, but this beautiful finished product shows it was obviously worth it,” said George Sherman, president of Sherman Associates.
Duluth Playhouse Board Chair Herb Minke said that without the strong commitment of all partners, the project could not have been done.
“This public-private partnership came about because of years of hard work to ensure that this project will work artistically and financially for everyone – especially the citizens of Duluth, whose property taxes will not be impacted at all,” said Minke. The Duluth Playhouse is managing the theater and leading its final fundraising.
In addition to Sherman Associates, DEDA and the Duluth Playhouse, other multi-million-dollar financial participants included the State of Minnesota and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. TKDA led design of the facility and Johnson Wilson was the contractor.
“The new NorShor will bring thousands of people a year into our downtown to not only enjoy great live entertainment, but also our many shops, hotels, restaurants and Lake Superior views,” said Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater Downtown Council. “We’ve looked forward to this day for a long time, and now it’s a reality.”
The NorShor, originally opened as the Orpheum Theater vaudeville house in 1910, hosted W.C Fields, Jack Benny, the Marx Brothers and other major acts. In 1941, the facility was reconfigured as a movie house and became the NorShor Theatre. In recent years, the theater had fallen into great disrepair and was the site of several unsuccessful ventures before closing.
Additional information about the building’s colorful history can be found at www.NorShorTheatre.com.
Source: NorShor Theatre press release