A century ago, the Palace Theatre opened in downtown St. Paul as a vaudeville house. Over the past 40 years, it has sat vacant, slowly slipping into a state of disrepair. Soon that is all about to change. The 100-year-old theater is set to reopen as a rock club with a stellar lineup of musical acts. Locally based groups Atmosphere, the Cactus Blossoms and the Jayhawks kick things off in March. Such national acts as Regina Spektor, The XX and Phantogram will be playing in the following weeks.
The Palace’s debut musical lineup is thanks to collaboration between First Avenue and Chicago-based Jam Productions. “We came on board about four years ago,” says Nathan Kranz, general manager, First Avenue. “[The City of St. Paul] knew that we have a great working relationship with Jam and we partner on all sorts of events around town. It was determined that the best way to move the Palace project forward was a combination of Jam and First Avenue, and that we use our different relationships to ensure the success of the Palace once it was open.”
The City of St. Paul purchased the Palace Theatre in 2015. “There had been a lot of deferred maintenance,” explains Kranz. ”All the things to make it safe, sound and secure were fixed and the rest of the theater was preserved to the best of our ability.” Some of the space’s improvements include a new HVAC system, roof and bathrooms, as well as a larger bar area.
As for the overall vibe inside? Much of the venue’s original architectural elements and materials remain, but have been revamped to reflect the nightclub atmosphere. An 800-seat balcony overlooks an open audience floor with lighting controls that set the mood for each event.
With a 2,500-seat capacity, the Palace is expected to help energize surrounding businesses. “Our goal is to sell out concerts, so when we bring in 2,500 people at a time, that's a big influx of people,” says Kranz. “I imagine that will spill over into bars and restaurants in the area. Also, I would imagine that the Palace Theatre would become more of a destination for Minneapolis residents when they see that it's very easy to get there.”
While it will primarily function as a rock club, the Palace will also be available to accommodate various types of events. In the meantime, Kranz promises more musical acts will soon be announced. As for Kranz’s dream act to perform in The Palace? “The one person I've never had the chance to work with or show in one of my rooms is Bob Dylan. And I hope that will change at some point.”