Don Stolz at the Old Log Theater near Excelsior. Star Tribune photo by Richard Sennott
I got a glimpse into the possible future of the Old Log Theater Tuesday night.
Owner Don Stolz and developer Jon Monson showed a proposal to redevelop the 11-acre property near Lake Minnetonka, and asked the Greenwood City Council whether it was interested enough to rezone the land. The council pushed the issue to January, and even if the plan did move forward, it would need to go through the Greenwood planning commission, then back to the council, then back to the commission and again to the council — with public comment all the way along. This is a democracy, after all.
But Monson’s presentation showed a concept that Stolz likes because it allows the land to be developed and keeps the theater operating — albeit in the original Old Log (which is now a scene shop) with greatly reduced seating and likely no restaurant. The schematic shows 18 single-family cottages arrayed about the property in what would be an owners’ association (think townhouse development). Also, the current theater, with its 625-seat auditorium and 350-seat restaurant, would be repurposed into condominiums.
Stolz said Tuesday night that he doesn’t have to sell and that "we intend to continue operating regardless of what happens here." Monson said there is no formal agreement, no sale contingency, no nothing — just a handshake idea.
"I got a call from Don about a month ago and he said he wanted to talk about what the next chapter in their lives is," Monson said.
Questions raised Tuesday night by citizens and council members concerned the suitability of the land for supporting so much construction. There are significant water-table issues, for example, and increased population density for the neighborhood.
Greenwood Mayor Deb Kind said the plan intrigued her because it preserved the historic (not officially, but colloquially) Old Log buildings. She did, however, quite accurately summarize the conundrum for Monson and Stolz. The city is not going to spend time and money on exploring the rezoning question if this proposal is only a trial balloon concept that might not happen for several years — if ever. Stolz is 93 and his sons are in their 60s and 50s, so a change in the venerable theater is likely — whether it is by way of Monson’s plan, or a straight purchase of the business and property by some other party.