Northrop Auditorium's makeover is put on hold until summer of 2010

  • Article by: CLAUDE PECK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 11, 2009 - 12:14 AM

The plan is to cut seating from 4,800 to 2,800 seats - and that will stretch out the planning time, officials said.

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University of Minnesota officials said a revamp of Northrop Auditorium now will begin in the summer of 2010, with reopening set for the fall of 2012.

Photo: Jane Hwang, Star Tribune

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Northrop Auditorium, the stately 1929 building that caps the mall of the University of Minnesota, will stay open for one more year before closing for a two-year architectural overhaul.

The delayed start is because more planning time is needed before the work can get underway, U officials said. Earlier plans had Northrop closing this summer, but that timetable has been pushed back. The U now says the work will begin in summer 2010, with a reopening in the fall of 2012.

Northrop will host dance and music seasons in 2009-10 at the 4,800-seat hall.

The seating capacity was a point of contention, with some arguing that it needed to remain large enough for graduation ceremonies and others advocating a smaller theater for better acoustics, improved sightlines and a more intimate atmosphere for music and performing arts.

The latter view appears to have prevailed. The renovation plan, with Twin Cities firm HGA as architect and New York-based firm Arup as theatrical and acoustical consultants, would have about 2,800 seats, said Steven Rosenstone, the vice president for scholarly and cultural affairs. Pulling out 2,000 seats from the current configuration and having up to three balconies would create "a higher-quality and more intimate venue," Rosenstone said.

The historic look of Clarence Johnston's post-World War I architecture would be maintained, Rosenstone said, although a north-facing wall could be pushed out for additional stage depth and to add more square feet to the overall plan.

"It would be a sin not to get more use out of the space that is at the heart of campus," Rosenstone said. To get more daytime traffic through the building, the plan includes new teaching, seminar, recital and meeting spaces. Northrop also would house the university's Honors Program as well as an Institute of Advanced Studies.

The delayed start has not affected the budget, which Rosenstone said remains at about $70 million.

Claude Peck • 612-673-7977

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