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March 23, 2001: Duluth Economic Development Authority unanimously rejects a proposal to acquire NorShor Theatre

On this day in Duluth in 2001, the Duluth Economic Development Authority voted 7–0 to reject a proposal to spend $1.48 million to acquire the Temple Opera Block, Orpheum Theatre, and NorShor Theatre (originally the Orpheum Garage) from owners Eric and Debbie Ringsred. The idea to purchase the buildings was championed by Duluth’s two youngest city councilors, Russ Stewart, 36, and Don Ness, 27, who thought the building’s management should then be turned over to “a nonprofit group composed largely of current tenants to manage the facility.” The previous week Mayor Gary Doty said he wanted the city to purchase the buildings to preserve the landmarks. Stewart said that the NorShor “provides excellent cultural and arts opportunities for young people in a city this size.” But DEDA didn’t like the deal, which included the forgiveness of $31,196.74 remaining on a loan to the Ringsreds. Duluth planning director Mike Conlan failed to provide DEDA members with a building inspector’s report on the property, which made DEDA members uneasy about writing a “big blank check,” as member Dale Lewis told the News Tribune. Nine years later, with Ness in the mayor’s office, DEDA decided to purchase the buildings for $2.6 million. In 2012, DEDA announced Sherman & Associates and the Duluth Playhouse would “join forces to oversee the transformation of the theater, and future management of the facility.” In January 2014 estimated project costs were revised to $22.4 million, with $7 million coming from the state. After many delays, the NorShor was renovated during much of 2017 and reopened in February 2018 after a nearly $30 million renovation.

Bob Anderson painted the classical nude figures that replaced the plaster Comedy and Drama friezes in 1946. (Image: Duluth News Tribune)