The building at 9th and Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis -- which was home to Solera for a dozen years until the restaurant closed 19 months ago --- looks like it's getting a new tenant.
It's not a restaurant. According to plans filed with the city of Minneapolis, the non-profit Hennepin Theatre Trust, which operates the adjacent Orpheum Theatre, as well as the nearby State Theatre, Pantages Theatre and New Century Theatre -- is looking to buy the building.
According to the report, the Trust is seeking a $2.8 million city loan and $250,000 grant -- and contributing $250,000 of its own cash -- to finance the $2.3 million purchase and $800,000 renovation of the three-story structure. The Trust has also budgeted $200,000 in planning costs. Closing is expected to take place in early- to mid-August.
The plan includes converting the first floor -- which housed the 225-seat Solera dining room and bar -- into a lounge for Trust subscribers and donors, and to extend the Orpheum's cramped street-level lobby. The second and third floors -- once Solera private-events spaces -- will be used for offices (now located in City Center) and educational and theatrical uses. The rooftop, once a popular bar, will be converted to an outdoor lounge and classroom.
A little history: When it opened in 2003 -- a replacement for long-shuttered Backstage at Bravo -- four-star Solera was the influential brainchild of La Belle Vie owners Tim McKee and Josh Thoma. It featured a trendy menu that emphasized Spanish tapas and a bar that stocked dozens of sherries.
McKee and Thoma ended their partnership in 2010 and sold Solera to a subsidiary of the Hennepin Avenue Opportunity Fund, which turned the facility over to Graves Hospitality Corp. Chef Jorge Guzman continued the Spanish theme for several years before departing in mid-2014 to manage Surly Brewing's $34 million destination brewery in southeast Minneapolis. Solera sputtered to a close at the end of 2014, and the building has remained vacant.
"By owning and operating the Solera Building, the Trust has represented that it will be able to enhance the experience for theater donors and supporters," reads the report. "This would include valet parking, complimentary drink specials and the opportunity to host guests at exclusive and private parties."