What are your thoughts on proposed development of the old Hollywood Theater?

Audubon neighbors, and anyone interested in the Hollywood Theater’s future, will want to attend the Audubon Neighborhood Association (ANA) community meeting Monday, Sept. 10, 7 p.m. at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church, 1509 27th Ave. NE.

When potential developers come talk to a neighborhood group, they’re usually seeking approval that lets them advance through some city process such as rezoning, or obtaining exclusive development rights after a request for proposals.

Not so with Andrew Volna, who said he would rather get neighborhood input earlier rather than later after spending money (though he has spent some) and time crunching numbers on something that might not resonate.

His day job is his record business, Noiseland Industries. Highlights in Volna’s portfolio of real estate are the Hawkinson Building where Noiseland is, and the former Rayvic gas station, now a signature workplace for Clockwork Active Media Systems at 1501 East Hennepin.

To “Clockwork” the Hollywood Theater building would mean: Stabilize the structure, find a financially capable tenant whose brand will benefit from the cool-ness of operating in a former theater, and renovate to suit; keeping as much of the character and features as possible (in fact, historic preservation guidelines require certain aspects to remain).

He emphasizes that the end use will have to conform to existing zoning, he “would be skeptical” of a use that required a change.

Volna told the Northeaster he’s unfamiliar with dealing with city politics or neighborhood process. His other projects have all been business deals without any city involvement or subsidy. But here, the city is the seller, the keeper of a damaged property in danger of deteriorating further.

The neighborhood and city have suffered so many evaporated proposals, that “we’re all worried about getting expectations up,” said Volna and city officials. “If it doesn’t work, it won’t be a personal embarrassment, it will be because it doesn’t pencil out. It’s a business decision,” Volna said.

“It will be a unique experience,” Volna said, of talking with whoever comes to the Audubon meeting. “We’re trying to engage the neighborhood in a unity of purpose, and want them to feel good about this. I want to hear their questions and thoughts.”

It’s not a secret. “I talk to people about this all the time,” he said; the more people have heard about it, the more likely to find resources or the end user. “There will be so much money at stake, it is not likely to be a startup. It’ll have to be a business with a track record.”

Engineer Meghan Elliott of Preservation Design Works, and Volna, have been working their way through what commercial real estate players call “due diligence,” figuring out costs and contingencies, scenarios that inform a potential purchaser (and their financiers) whether it will be feasible—will the end use allow the developer to recoup the costs.

The Hollywood has the old artesian well, storm and sanitary sewer separation, and outdated electrical service to deal with as well as the water damage from the years before the city put a new roof on the building. “And do you know what the city has in mind?” for the former gas station lot across the street. “What isn’t clear yet is there needs to be access to parking.”

First Ward Minneapolis City Council Member Kevin Reich and City staff (Miles Mercer assigned to the Hollywood) will also attend Sept. 10 as resources for neighbors and community stakeholders.

Meghan Elliot’s website is www.pvnworks. com. For background on the real estate company Apiary, go to www.apiary.com, and Noiseland Industries, www.noiseland.com.

The Hollywood’s eventual tenant would employ a few dozen mostly young people who’ll frequent the restaurants and bring their friends as well as the business’ clients to the neighborhood. “It would make a good neighbor, a catalyst,” Volna said. “I’m generally optimistic.”

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Margo Ashmore's picture
Margo Ashmore

Margo Ashmore is the editor of NorthNews.