Superior considers support for renovated Princess Theatre

The historic preservation committee recommended a Connecticut company conduct a feasibility study ahead of the renovation project.

In the 1940s, the Princess Theatre was the ornate building with a large marquee extending over the sidewalk located between the Princess Sweet Shop and a fashion store.
Contributed / Douglas County Historical Society

SUPERIOR — The city is looking to test the community’s ability to support a venue for arts, culture and entertainment before plunging ahead with a design for a multi-million-dollar plan to renovate the Princess Theatre on Tower Avenue.

The historic preservation committee is recommending awarding the contract to conduct a feasibility study to Theatre Projects for a base bid of $65,000. The committee also recommended spending up to $37,000 on the contract for venue sketches and concepts; renovation project planning; detailed renovation and expansion costing; and a fundraising package for the project.

What none of us really considered that I know of is: Will anyone come and perform the shows? ... Are there enough homeless theater companies that could host active seasons of live theater?
Superior Mayor Jim Paine

The committee decided Monday, May 15, to forego renderings that would have added $15,000 per view for interior and exterior renderings to the overall cost of $102,000.

“In my mind, the sketches and concepts, if it’s less money than the other more expensive version, you can just show,” said Brian Finstad of the historic preservation committee. “People know what a theater is. I don’t think to market this that you’re going to have to have really detailed photographs. I’m about saving costs.

"In that same vein, I do think that politically … if any questions are going to come at this, it’s going to be cost questions.”


Mayor Jim Paine said renderings would be part of the packet when the city moves ahead with the design phase for the renovation project.

“This was actually a step we had not expected to take in the beginning,” Paine said. “I wanted to move this very quickly. My hope was to go into design.”

However, Paine said, during conversations with a potential operating partner, their main questions were what is meant by the term "theater" and how exactly will it be run. He said the vision was broad, with the hope that it could be used for performance, film, music and art, but the question remained about the theater’s main purpose and the mix of different mediums, which would influence the design and operations.

“What none of us really considered that I know of is: Will anyone come and perform the shows? ... Are there enough homeless theater companies that could host active seasons of live theater?" Paine said.

Theatre Projects, incorporated in Connecticut, was selected from four proposals the city received based on scope of work, relevant experience and cost, according to Jeff Skrenes, housing coordinator and planner.

Paine said the base proposal of the feasibility study will evaluate the art community, audience, costs of operation, staffing and the type of theater the city should run.

The council will consider the proposal June 6.

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Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or
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