Rochester to buy, preserve historic Chateau Theatre

Chateau Theatre
The Chateau Theatre in Rochester, Minn., pictured here in its early days.
Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

Rochester officials say the city will buy the city's historic Chateau Theatre for $6 million, including a $500,000 contribution from Mayo Clinic.

The iconic downtown building, which opened in 1927, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its original interior was decorated as a medieval village with a dark ceiling that showed off constellations. For 15 years, the building housed a Barnes and Noble bookstore, which closed in December.

The City Council is expected to vote on the purchase at its April 6 meeting. Once city officials approve the purchase agreement, a 60-day public comment period will begin to get community feedback about the future use of the space, City Council President Randy Staver said.

Many people have said they want to see the Chateau preserved, said Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede.

"We have listened to those heartfelt comments and completely agree that we need to take action to preserve this important link to Rochester's history for future generations," he said.

Rochester is currently in the early stages of a 20-year, nearly $6 billion transformation of its downtown to support Mayo Clinic's own aggressive expansion in the city.

The Chateau's preservation is central to downtown Rochester's development, said Mayo CEO Dr. John Noseworthy.

"We know that when patients and their families come to Rochester, they spend 70 percent of their time away from Mayo Clinic and in the community," he said. "It's extremely important that there are ample entertainment and leisure activities for them."