NEW ULM – A special update was made on the State Street Theater (SST) and Emerson Union Apartments on Tuesday at the New Ulm Country Club.
Thor Mickelson of the Mickelson Media Foundation was the keynote speaker. Mickelson and his father helped establish the New Ulm Area Foundation by providing a matching fund, which has helped many nonprofits in the area, including the State Street Theater.
Mickelson grew up in New Ulm and said it was a great place to live because it is a community that supports development.
“The theater is at the heart of a community”, Mickelson said. “It’s one of the best vehicles for building a community. It allows us to see who we are and who we aspire to be.
The Mickelson family believed in and supported theaters. Mickelson explained that the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis was the result of a widespread community effort. In the early years, the Guthrie was faced with questions about its necessity and how to support it.
“Today, we cannot imagine Minnesota without him” Mickelson said. “[The Guthrie] is a pillar that creates the great climate of Minnesota.
He encouraged New Ulm to consider OSH in the same way and to improve the quality of life of the community.
Andy Biebl and Mary Ellen Domeier provided an update on the theater part of the SST building. The old college is made up of two legal entities: SST and Emerson Union Apartments.
Biebl said the separation of utilities was the first hurdle and a setback for the project. The building is made up of three different structures created over decades, creating overlapping public services.
Domeier said the separation is more complicated than cutting a pipe and putting a fitting on the end.
Over the next few months, SST will make improvements to the parking lot, reseal the building, perform roof maintenance and provide new theater seats.
Biebl said the seats are a challenge as they must meet historic guidelines since the building is certified as a historic structure.
In the second phase, the theater would work on ADA compliance, installation of elevators, concessions, and restoration of the theater’s murals.
Biebl said the theater space was well used last year. Over the past 12 months, SST has organized six productions, 11 concerts, seven workshops and two rentals. The theater raised over $ 65,000 in ticket sales.
The first phase of SST’s fundraising campaign has a goal of $ 500,000. After two years, the campaign has raised $ 335,000 with $ 165,000 to raise.
Community Housing Development Corporation (CHDC) Vice-President Heidi Rathmann and President Elizabeth Flannery provided an update on Emerson Union Apartments.
CHDC is a non-profit organization that helps create affordable housing projects. The organization is currently working on converting the old college into apartments.
Rathmann said they were 40 percent complete with construction. Since this is a historic building, CHDC attempts to preserve the historic elements. Almost all apartment units are an entire classroom. Built-in classroom elements, such as wardrobes and chalkboards, have been kept where possible. The ceilings of the corridors were raised and the transoms were opened.
Rathmann said the apartments target households with incomes between $ 28,000 and $ 40,000 and will offer one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units.
CHDC plans to schedule a visit to the building in hard hats at the end of the summer.
The project requires the use of historic state tax credits, but the state legislature recently changed the credits from a one-year credit to a five-year credit. This makes these types of credits less valuable. The change is retroactive and affects the Emerson Union Apartments.
“We have a lot of work to do between now and our next session to potentially get it fixed,” Rathmann said.
Domeier thanked everyone for their support and donations to these State Street Theater projects. She said the apartment side of the project was not ready for the tour, but tours of the theater side can be arranged for those interested.