Vacant Theater in Frogtown to be Revitalized

Updated: 01/16/2014 9:14 PM
Created: 01/16/2014 5:43 PM
By: Brandi Powell

It's been a home for silent movies, a nightclub and a speakeasy. Now, a long-vacant theater in St. Paul will be revitalized.

The Victoria Theater opened on University Avenue in 1915. It's been vacant for many years, but Thursday the Twin Cities Community Land Bank bought it.

The Victoria Theater is located in St. Paul's Frogtown neighborhood. Frogtown has been Denise Mwasyeba's home for 22 years.

"I've been kicking around this area since 1990." It's a St. Paul community, once fighting off drugs that's now, perhaps entering a new era.

"Today we are not talking about crime in our community, we're not talking about deteriorating housing, we're celebrating so many initiatives that are coming to the forefront on 2014," Mwasyeba said.

One of the biggest initiatives: revamping St. Paul's Victoria Theater. It's a rare, historic art center, built in 1915; part of the social and political history of prohibition in St. Paul. It's soon to be, a new kind of art space for the community.

"The vision is that it will be a place where the community will have meetings, community gatherings, we will have live theater, live music, somewhere where you can have a coke or a glass of wine and look out and watch people strolling along University Avenue as they get off the light rail," said Mwasyeba.

A dream come true for those like her who've stood by Frogtown's potential.

The idea is that the century-old building won't only be the center of cultural revitalization, but it will give the community an economic boost, so that housing prices in Frogtown will go up.

Local brokers say it may take several years before the benefits seem real, however. "It's a very exciting first step," Matt Ditzler said. "Are we going to see some immediate change right off the bat? Probably not. But when you have a major investment like this one, the opening of an important building in the area, it's a great sign and hopefully it will attract more commercial investors to the area and residents as well."

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