Dennis Davey: Flexibility key to Chateau's future success
I am a board member of Rochester Music Board (also known as Riverside Concerts), appointed in August of 2015 by the Mayor Ardell Brede. The reason I was interested in serving on this board is because I love music and the performing arts and wanted to support the great music opportunities the City of Rochester provides the community. I have long attended the Sunday night Down by the Riverside concerts and the live music performances at Thursday on First and Third (booked by the Rochester Music Department). And of course, the Riverside Concerts Series is another fine example of the efforts this entity brings to our community.
As a board member and as a citizen I have been paying close attention to the Chateau Theatre reuse proposal following the purchase of this historic theater almost two years ago. The progress has been painfully slow on moving a plan for reuse forward. I have followed the opinion pieces previously posted by the Med City Beat and felt a need to submit this piece for further consideration.
I attended the DMCC board meeting on November 2 and found concern with some of comments made by R.T. Rybak regarding the Chateau Theatre reuse project. I suspect that his comments were primarily due to a lack of understanding of the process that has been taken on by the Chateau Reuse Task Force. I have written a letter to Mr. Rybak copied to the entire board and city administration but thought, “if they are confused, there must be others." So, below are excerpts from my letter that I would like to share with the community.
First of all, the Task Force was charged with creating a multi-use performing arts facility. It was not charged with creating a specific use venue. To facilitate this mission, the performance space— as well as loading/unloading, green room, dressing rooms, etc. — had to be visioned and planned.
Hydraulic Floor/Seating System
There has been much said about the $6 million floor and seating system. I my opinion, this is the “golden key” of this plan that can truly make the Chateau a multi-use facility. You mentioned several possible performance spaces that the Chateau may want to be modeled after. With a little more that the push of a button the Chateau could be converted to a flat floor and balcony seating much like the Palace Theatre (which I recently toured with the DMC EDA). Cabaret seat similar to the Dakota Jazz Club the next day, and certainly outshine the folding chairs of the Cedar Cultural Center. The flexibility of the floor and seating system will go a long way to fully program this space. Whether it is a Mayo meeting during the daytime and a concert that evening, the flexibility is key to maximizing the programming.
The Chateau Theatre, for most of it’s life, was used as a movie theater. It is not a large foot print. Therefore, the need as presented in the consultants report to excavate beneath the current structure and into or under the alleyway will allow for public amenities and need support space. As you are probably aware, there were several public engagement meeting to get community feedback.
Recommendations by the Webb Management
- The Chateau should be renovated as a functional and flexible performance, meeting and event space with as many seats as possible
- Physical priorities should be:
- A high-quality venue for a range of event types
- Maximizing seating capacity (+600 seats?)
- Technology for amplified and un-amplified live and electronic events
- Efficient access and changeovers for various types of users
- Flexibility for users and audiences
- Amenities for audiences – excellent food and beverage capabilities
I think that our goal is a shared one: to see the Chateau Theatre become an integral part of the DMC’s envisioned Heart of the City. The Rochester City Music Board is ready to step up to assist in the future permanence of this jewel. The Board has discussed this at length over the past two years as we’ve watched the slow progress being made on this endeavor.
Dennis Davey is a member of the Rochester Music Board, and president of the Historic Southwest Neighborhood Association.