The Duluth Downtown Development Authority voted Tuesday (March 19) to authorize Eddie Owen to use $25,000 in funds donated by the Duluth Fall Festival to start building out the basement of the Red Clay Theatre for a music school.
Owen manages the city-owned music venue and presents regular live music concerts. The DFF funds are deposited in the DDA’s bank account.
Owen reported he has received three bids from contractors to do the build-out.
The RCT also needs better signage in the front and rear of the building, he said, but the DFF funds would not cover both the improvements to the basement and new signs, Owen said. Theater-goers often go into downtown stores to ask where the theatre is located, he said.
Owen told the DDA that he would prefer to proceed with the school now since it would produce revenue.
At last month’s meeting the DDA voted to ask the architectural firm of Hill Foley Rossi to submit a proposal for modifying a design concept it had previously done for improvements at the Red Clay Theatre. The proposed improvements would fill in the hole left by excavation to repair the end wall to prevent basement flooding.
The plans now include expanding the basement and adding at least two floors above it to enlarge the theatre’s pre-function space and provide space for a tavern. A possible additional story would allow for outdoor dining.
The DDA is waiting for direction from Owen on the potential design before proceeding.
At the March meeting, the DDA approved a façade grant request by Ashley Towers to pay for half the $1,725 cost of repainting the Eye Candy Studio storefront at 3127 Main Street. The studio is planning grand opening events March 22 and 23.
The Core Preservation District-Commercial Board has approved a front perpendicular “blade” sign and a wall sign for the rear of the studio.
City Planning Director James Riker presented a report on a recent Friday evening tour of Decatur’s downtown dining and entertainment district undertaken by city officials and staff. DDA member Maxine Garner accompanied the group. The report included a slide presentation of nightspots.
Garner noted that Decatur has a more lenient sign ordinance than Duluth’s that allows neon signs. Decatur regulates the number and location of the signs, but not the colors or materials, Garner said. The neon signs weren’t offensive, she said.
Riker informed the DDA that the Duluth City Council had approved entering into an agreement with Morris & Fellows to provide downtown redevelopment planning. Cheri Morris indicated her firm intends to start work in April and complete plans by late July, he said.
DDA member Greg Lindquist briefed authority members on a recent meeting of downtown merchants who depend on foot traffic to stay in business. The merchants expressed interest in forming a downtown business group that would represent their interests to city government, Lindquist said.
Lindquist relayed merchant concerns that included adding downtown lighting, replacing the Main Street banners bearing names of stores no longer in business, putting up a visual barrier to hide the hole next to the Red Clay Theatre, paving and opening the alleyway behind the old City Hall Block, and improving street and sidewalk maintenance.
The merchants also discussed the possibility of holding First Thursday or First Friday promotions during which they would stay open later, he said.