Solera closed in January 2015, and its building has been vacant since. Photo by Eric Best

Solera closed in January 2015, and its building has been vacant since. Photo by Eric Best

Hennepin Theatre Trust plans new home inside Solera building

Updated: August 9, 2016 - 10:34 am

The nonprofit is looking to relocate its offices closer to its historic theaters.

The Hennepin Theatre Trust is looking to get closer to its historic theaters by making the former Solera building its permanent home.

The nonprofit, which owns the Orpheum, Pantages and State theaters on Hennepin Avenue, has filed plans to buy and renovate the three-story building at the corner of 9th & Hennepin to create new offices and event spaces. The 31,000-square-foot building has sat vacant since the Spanish restaurant closed in January 2015 after a decade in business.

The nonprofit plans to use the main floor to serve donors and subscribers, and to expand the lobby and lounge in the adjacent Orpheum Theatre, according to plans submitted to the City Council’s Community Development & Regulatory Services Committee. The second floor would house its offices and the third floor would have theatrical arts and education uses. The Trust plans to use the building’s rooftop as an outdoor lounge and classroom.

The Trust currently has offices in City Center where it also operates the approximately 300-seat New Century Theatre.

The Trust is looking for a $2.8 million loan and a $250,000 grant from the city for the approximately $3.3 million project, which would include $2.3 million to acquire the building and $1 million for planning and renovation costs. It also plans to use $250,000 of its own funding.

The nonprofit plans to raise $5 million over the next decade as part of a capital campaign, with a “major component” coming from the naming rights for the first-floor donor lounge. A spokesman said they anticipate fundraising and design work to begin as early as September.

Tom Hoch, the Trust’s president and CEO, told council members that the project will give them room to expand and will increase property values in the area.

It’s also an ideal location for the organization, Hoch said, because of their projects to activate Hennepin Avenue, including storefront art initiative Made Here, its WeDo cultural district and works like the Bob Dylan mural from artist Eduardo Kobra.

“This is going to give us a great hub for doing that,” he said.

Council Member John Quincy (Ward 11) said the loan has little risk due to the city’s strong partnership with the nonprofit, which has owned the theaters for over a decade.

“I think from a financial point of view it’s commons sense for the city to take care of some of our greatest assets,” he said.

The proposal has been referred to the Aug. 1 Ways & Means Committee and will need full City Council approval.