City opens more of Downtown to theaters

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May 21, 2002 // UPDATED 1:20 pm - April 30, 2007
By: David Brauer
David Brauer

The city has set the stage for a live theater invasion in North Loop -- if theater companies are interested.

Last week, the Minneapolis City Council changed the city's zoning code so theater companies can establish performance spaces in so-called Industrial Overlay Districts. One major zone Downtown is a block either side of Washington Avenue North and west of North 4th Street. Previously, theater companies were virtually forbidden from these industrial areas.

Jim Voll, a city planner, said the city has long recognized that certain amenities are okay in industrial areas where residents also live. The zoning code permitted retail stores, antique stores, bookstores and laundries, among others. However, theater companies -- who often exist on the fringes of these districts -- were not allowed. Now, they are permitted as long as they do not require a new building. "The real intent is to preserve existing buildings," Voll said.

Catherine Geisen-Kisch, an aide to Councilmember Paul Ostrow (1st Ward) said the impetus for the move came from a survey of north and northeast Minneapolis theater companies complaining of too few performance spaces. "There's a huge policy concern about decreasing property in the city for industrial uses," she said. "This gives us flexibility to address the lack of performances spaces without changing the underlying zoning."

Adult-oriented strip clubs do not qualify under live theater provisions, according to the zoning code.