A project nearly a decade in the making is finally underway.
On Tuesday a press conference was held at the NorShor Theater in Downtown Duluth with notable individuals such as Mayor Emily Larson in attendance.
The reason? The keys to the property were officially being handed over marking the start of a renovation and restoration project of Duluth's oldest and most historic theater, a project in the making since the early 2000's
The NorShor Theater was constructed in 1910 and back then it wasn't called what it is today, rather it was the Orpheum Theater. As a Classical Revival styled theater the NorShor stood out as one of the most luxurious theaters in Northern Minnesota.
For most of the early 1900's the NorShor was the premiere place for Vaudeville performances within Duluth and was also one of the first movie theaters within the city.
Come the 1940's and the Orpheum Theatre emerged in a new form having been renovated in an Art Deco style and also having been renamed, now being called the NorShor Theater. The crowning element of the theatre's design was a 125 foot tall tower gracing the exterior, clad in porcelain and covered in over 3,000 lights.
Decades later once the 21st century hit the NorShor was in a far different light having long exited it's glory days. It operated under a number uses in the early 2000's, most of which used the space in every way that was not originally intended with the most notable being a strip club.
However in 2010 a glimmer of hope appeared when the Duluth Economic Development Authority purchased the NorShor Theatre and a few adjacent buildings for $2.5 million. It marked the beginning of a long planning process for full renovation and restoration of the building.
That plan is finally becoming reality.
Estimated to cost $30.5 million dollars, the NorShor Theater will bring new life to the recently designated Duluth Arts and Theater District which includes a number of thriving restaurants, bars, shops, and even two independent movie theaters.
Sherman Associates now owns the NorShor Theatre and will be responsible for the redevelopment of the property. They're not a new company to the Twin Ports, in fact they're also the company behind the renovation of Greysolon Plaza and also the development of the building that is home to the Sheraton Hotel and 311 Superior Condos.
The renovation of the NorShor Theatre will create a state-of-the-art 700 seat live performance theater in the Art Deco style. Sherman Associates also plans to bring back a bar and lounge to the building which will take note from the 1940's Milk Bar that once existed within the NorShor.
The project is expected to be completed in December 2017 and soon after the Duluth Playhouse will move in. After seven years the Playhouse is expected to take full ownership of the building.