Building planned for completion in 2020; theater of a professional caliber
The Zephyr building plans include auditorium construction and renovations, with the Zephyr presenting its first season of musical and dramatic plays by 2020 in its new home. Zephyr Theatre leaders says audiences can expect theater to be produced by professional directors, actors and tech crews. In addition to live theater, Zephyr audiences will be offered numerous choices in professional concerts, film, dance, literary arts and storytelling.
Two-phase fund raising and construction plans
Phase I: $2.5 million – building purchase
After 18 months of dogged grassroots fund raising, in summer 2018 The Zephyr Theatre purchased the $2.5 million former Zephyr train depot, vacant seven years but once a hub for the popular dinner and entertainment train. More than 500 individuals and businesses made donations large and small, plus many businesses and professionals have made generous in-kind donations. Donor funds by the May 2018 building purchase came to about $1 million; the remaining purchase price was met by a commercial mortgage loan from Lake Elmo Bank, which has a Stillwater branch.
Phase II fund raising goal: $4 million
The theater company has now entered its second phase of fund raising, seeking another $4 million to add a three-story 330-seat auditorium (the first story at below-ground level for rehearsals). It will feature a proscenium stage, and the rake of the seating allows unobstructed views for audience members from the first row to the last. The auditorium will be constructed onto the north end of the building.
Phase II funds also will go toward the extensive renovation costs of the existing building, which include the creation of a public bakery cafe in the south end, providing house-made gourmet desserts for theater goers at intermission. The cafe also will be a new gathering place for Stillwater residents and visitors. Adjacent to the planned bakery cafe space, the building features an elegant, wrap-around, solid wood bar, and a spacious lobby with comfortable seating.
Train car to be converted to snack shop on Brown’s Creek State Trail
One vacant train car remains on the property, riverside, which will be renovated into a snack shop for pedestrians and bicyclists along the Brown’s Creek State Trail that runs behind the building. The now six-mile trail was extended in recent years, connecting the Gateway State Trail to downtown Stillwater.