Paisley Park museum opening likely delayed by traffic concerns

Prince's Paisley Park complex
Police stand guard at Paisley Park on April 22 in Chanhassen. It appears that Paisley Park will not open to the public for tours this week as had been planned.
Scott Olson | Getty Images file

Citing safety and traffic concerns, the Chanhassen City Council delayed a vote Monday to rezone Prince's production and performance space as a museum.

Paisley Park had been scheduled to open to paying visitors on Thursday.

Bremer Trust — which is overseeing Prince's estate — hired the people who operate Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tenn., to turn Paisley Park into a similar attraction.

They've already sold three months' worth of tickets online. The tours include the studios and Prince's private music club, plus displays of his memorabilia.

Two weeks ago Chanhassen's planning commission approved rezoning the property to allow for a museum. But at a special meeting, that proposal ran up against some skeptical city leaders, including Council Member Bethany Tjornhom.

"I think we have one chance to get this right. And for our community, being rushed into such a major decision, I just don't think we're being good stewards," Tjornhom said.

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She noted the concerns of residents who fear a major increase in traffic, and moved to table the rezoning request and got a majority of the five-member council on her side.

Denise Choiniere lives a mile south of Paisley Park. Her son attends Chanhassen High School nearby. Choiniere says Audubon Road is already dangerous for teens driving and cycling in the area.

"Be the kid on the bicycle who's trying to cross because they're trying to get to school," Choiniere said. "I've lived there for over 25 years. Prince has been a great neighbor. And I'd really be sad if something bad happened because we didn't do a thorough job of looking at traffic."

But Mayor Denny Laufenburger urged the council to press forward, saying it's not clear what benefit additional review of the plan would bring. Laufenburger praised both Bremer Trust and Graceland Holdings for their transparency with city officials.

A sea of purple balloons
Prince fan Dawn Mitchell leaves a message beside a sea of purple balloons and flowers at a memorial wall outside Paisley Park on April 24.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

"They have been fully responsive to the requests that the city has made, including elements related to the traffic study, things like that," Laufenburger said, pointing out that Bremer dropped plans to build a privacy fence around Paisley Park after Prince fans said it would block their view of the building and make it harder to leave mementos.

Prince fans at the meeting said it's too soon after the superstar's death in April of a fentanyl overdose to open the complex where he was found.

Monday's City Council decision came days before public tours were to begin. It's unclear what the delay will mean for people who've bought tickets.

Graceland's managing partner, Joel Weinshanker, declined comment after the vote. But earlier in the meeting he said the company has the ability to contact ticket holders by email and phone in case of any changes.

Twin Cities attorney Patrick Mazorol, a consultant to Bremer Trust, said the delay is disappointing.

"I think the next steps are to get together with the operator, determine what this means in terms of ticket sales, and moving a starting date out, potentially into the winter months, which we were hoping to avoid," Mazorol said.

Council members did not say when they'll revisit the Paisley Park zoning request.