Nonprofit Group Aims to Turn Depot Builing into Stillwater Zephyr Theatre

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A local nonprofit group is hoping to renovate the Stillwater Depot building on North Main Street into a theatre.

Stillwater Zephyr Theatre has launched a $6.5 million capital campaign to buy the Minnesota Zephyr train depot and renovate it into a professional theatre. The hope is to begin construction later this year, and to open the new Stillwater Zephyr Theatre in November 2017.

The 324-seat theatre would specialize in musicals from the 1920s to ’50s, according to Stillwater Zephyr Theater’s website. “The Zephyr Theatre will be a professional theatre providing live performances, music, dance, education and artistic opportunities for all ages.”

Plans for Only Dim Image Productions’ proposed theatre call for a large meeting hall and rehearsal space, a dance rehearsal studio, scene, costume and prop shops, and a bakery and coffee shop.

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According to StillwaterZephyrTheatre.org, the benefits to the community include:

  • Providing a regional professional theatre in the east metro
  • Furthering establish the St. Croix Valley as a cultural center and destination
  • Increasing tourism and bringing more people to downtown businesses year-round
  • Offering a space/stage option for other performance groups in the area
  • Creating a place for meetings, lectures, and gatherings for public or private events
  • Holding classes and workshops in performance and art benefitting all ages
  • Commissioning local artists, composers, performers, and playwrights

The theatre anticipates producing at least six original productions a year, while being a venue for occasional music concerts, dance performances and touring productions.

The project, being spearheaded by Franz Hall and his daughter Calyssa Hall, of Afton.

Until now, the Halls have been renting theatre space in Minneapolis for their musical productions.

“We thought that Stillwater would be an ideal place for our theater, and that the Depot would be an ideal location, being that it’s on Main Street of downtown Stillwater and that the Zephyr Depot was extremely well-known in the Upper Midwest,” Calyssa Hall told the Pioneer Press. “It will be good to have that name recognition.”

The nonprofit group’s capital campaign is an attempt to raise $6.5 million for the purchase, construction and renovations of the Stillwater Depot building, which is currently owned by David Paradeau.

The proposal will need to get approvals for special use permits and a couple of variances for the building’s height — the proposal calls for a 30-foot expansion of the Depot to the north that will be 15 feet higher than the Depot — and decreasing the number of parking spaces.

The Planning Commission will take up the proposal this week. The Heritage Preservation Commission will also weigh in on the plans before the proposal goes before the Stillwater City Council.

The Stillwater Depot building has been vacant since 2009.

Theater Proposal in Stillwater Depot

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