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The Minnesota Orchestra.

Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

The Metropolitan Building, at Third Street and Second Avenue.

Star Tribune file 1960,

Letter of the Day (July 29): Orchestra economics

  • July 28, 2013 - 6:30 PM

As a young man working at the First National Bank in the early 1960s, I remember older executives talking about the Metropolitan Building. “It’s a shame to tear that building down,” said one. “It’s really special.”

“You’re right,” said another, “but it costs $250,000 to buy. You’d have to heat that open atrium and pay the property taxes, and it’s tough to get tenants in that part of downtown. It just doesn’t pay.”

“That’s right. It’s a shame. But what else can they do?” said another.

Being new in town, I walked the few blocks down Second Avenue toward the Gateway District to look at the building and admire its red sandstone exterior and interior iron grillwork and elevators. It turned out I was paying last respects. A short time later the building was pounded into extinction.

I can’t help thinking of the Metropolitan Building today when I hear discussions about the Minnesota Orchestra. “It’s running a deficit. What else can they do?” seems to be the overriding theme.

Look a little farther into the future, I want to suggest. A $6 million annual deficit may be easy to overcome in a few years. After all, it’s only 26 percent of Joe Mauer’s salary. Let’s not make the mistake of tearing an institution apart based on short-term economics. All parties, including employees, may have to think longer term.

DONALD M. HALL, Minneapolis

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