Photos: St. Paul reopens Palace Theatre as a music venue

A crowd of about 200 people gathered.
1 A crowd of about 200 people gathered around the entrance to the Palace just before 11:30. 
Mayor Chris Coleman welcomes the public.
2 "Good morning, everyone!" called Mayor Chris Coleman, as the crowd cheered. "I feel like Willy Wonka coming out of the chocolate factory." 
Lobby, exterior of the Palace
3 Palace devotees have long described it as a hidden gem. While the huge sign and the marquee outside are clear indicators of a theater, it's still a remarkable experience to walk through the foyer and see the auditorium itself. 
Jeremy Messersmith plays during the open house.
4 As local musician Jeremy Messersmith played on stage, visitors marveled at the new set-up. All the ground-floor seats have been removed and the floor now rises up in a series of four tiers. 
The public got a look -- and a few photos.
5 All the seats in the balcony have been reupholstered and re-covered. The city's director of art and culture, Joe Spencer, said the Palace will be able to handle crowds. "About 2,000 people on the main floor when it's standing, general admission," he said. "And about 800 seats in the balcony." 
Balcony seating
6 Tom Stromsodt, an architect who has been working on this project since 2001, said the plan has always been to make this a rock club. He takes special delight in the way the refit allowed contrast between past and present. There is the stainless steel of new fixtures next to the preserved walls and plasterwork dating back decades. 
View from the open floor to the balcony
7 Up in the balcony, Ginny Bernhagen of St. Paul and Megan Bellan of Woodbury were taking it all in. Bernhagen goes to a lot of shows, and she likes the size of the Palace. She also likes the choice of standing or sitting. "Sometimes you don't want to be down in the crowd, and sometimes you do," she said. "And I like that it's tiered down there ... If there is a tall person down there, you might be able to see around them for once, which is pretty cool!" 
The stage and the bar area.
8 Joe Spencer , the city's director of art and culture, said the Palace could host between 50 and 100 shows a year, and it's expected to draw 100,000 visitors to downtown annually. 
Staircase to the balcony
9 The back wall of the house is gone, replaced by a gleaming stainless steel bar. It opens up a huge space. 
Open floor of the concert area
10 The visitors to the open house, including Maggie O'Reilly from St. Paul, were clearly taken by the renovated theater. "I think it's amazing. I love the soaring ceilings, and the acoustics are sounding pretty solid," she said. "I didn't expect to see Jeremy Messersmith this morning, so that's an added delight."