MacPhail Center for Music unveils Mill District home

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July 18, 2005 // UPDATED 1:56 pm - April 26, 2007
By: David Brauer
David Brauer

What's now known as the Mill District may gain an artistic moniker after the MacPhail Center for Music announced plans July 13 to move within blocks of the Mill City Museum and new Guthrie Theater.

MacPhail, currently located at 1128 LaSalle Ave., will move to a modernist, six-story headquarters at the intersection of South 2nd Street & 5th Avenue. A Spring 2006 groundbreaking and 2007 opening is planned, said President David O'Fallon. The site is currently vacant.

MacPhail has had a development agreement to move onto the city-owned site since 2000 but only now has found an acceptable design that will also spur fund-raising. The new $12.5 million building is to be designed by James Dayton, similar to his askew design for The Nine condos nearby at 2nd Street & Portland. Dayton is a protg of Frank Gehry, who designed the University of Minnesota's "exploding metal artichoke," a.k.a. the Weisman Art Museum.

The building will feature a two-story auditorium able to hold 225 people. The school has over 130 instructors who teach 6,000 pupils; 3,000 currently use the Downtown classrooms.

O'Fallon said the new building will interact with the Mill District in many ways. Musicians will regularly play in the prominent outdoor courtyard, and passersby will be able to look in on classes taking place. Locals can also take advantage of free or $5 concerts inside, he added.

Also, the center will target more offerings to Downtown residents, such as single professionals and empty nesters "looking to rediscover or return to music," O'Fallon said.

Fund-raising is not yet complete, but O'Fallon said major donors such as Target Corp. and General Mills are on board, and he is "99 percent sure" the move will take place. The center must still buy the land from the city, but O'Fallon expects no problems there.

As for the 1923 building at 12th & LaSalle, it is owned by University of St. Thomas. O'Fallon said MacPhail can stay until the projected move-out date. St. Thomas officials say there are absolutely no plans to tear down the building.