The Capri will undergo a major transformation in 2018

Capri Theater 2018-01-26.jpg

By Kenzie O’Keefe | Editor

The theater Prince first performed at will soon get a multi-million dollar renovation.

The Capri Theater Expansion development, an addition to the current theater at 2027 West Broadway Ave. N, is planned to break ground this September. After a yearlong building process, the prominent new building is anticipated to open in the fall of 2019, just in time to serve students from the Plymouth Christian Youth Center (PCYC) when school starts.

This is the second major investment that PCYC, which owns the Capri, will make in the theater since it assumed control of it in the mid-80s. 

Though the stage Prince once stood on will be preserved, the rest of the theater  will get a massive makeover. A brand-new set of seats will be installed and significant lighting and acoustic updates will be made. 

“We started with the idea that we had something to contribute to make the neighborhood better by what we do physically as well as what we do inside the buildings and in the community,” said Anne Long, Executive Director of PCYC and the Capri Theater. “We wanted something that would say to the community, ‘you really deserve beautiful architecture,’” said Long.

Dressing rooms, a wardrobe space, and a set workshop will all be added. A catering kitchen will be built to serve the mainstage and the the new great hall, a 2000-square-foot room which will be available for rent to the public.  A large gallery wall and a dance studio built on the second story will look out on West Broadway. Additional classrooms and a Best Buy Teen Tech Center will be constructed to serve PCYC and students throughout the community.  An outdoor plaza, inspired by the temporary Freedom Plaza across the street, will be added alongside the building.

“Now with the benefit of all this additional space, we’ll be able to accommodate more needs and out of that we’ll be able to grow more partnerships,” said Theater Director James Scott.

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So far, just over half the funds have been raised for the $10 Million project.

Long says fundraising has gone well thanks to several individual and corporate donors, including longtime friends of the Capri, Janet and Brad Anderson. But, it hasn’t been without challenges.

“This would have been done a good bit sooner had it not been for the the world economics,” said Long, alluding to the economic recession of 2008 which occurred just after planning for the expansion began.

“We scramble for everything we have,” she said.  

This project is one of many large developments underway in the area right now. Greater housing density in the area – thanks to Devean George’s Commons at Penn and Dean Rose’s Broadway Flats – have already caused positive change at the Capri. “The people that are able to walk here has hugely increased since these three housing developments,” said Long.

Both Long and James say they hope restaurants will come next. Long says ticketholders often call the theater asking for a nearby dinner recommendation within walking distance. She has to tell them there isn’t a single one.

“We’re looking for an experience for folks – retail, restaurants, parking – all of those things contribute to the success of a theater,” said Scott. “We’d like to have this development be part of a larger development that will reenergize this node,” he added.

Capri leaders are quick to note that current community members are at the center of their development process. Community engagement has taken place at every step in the planning process.

“We’re really cognizant of this vibrant, local Northside arts community and how we can support them, be there with them, and help them in terms of having more space,” said Janet Zahn, communications manager for PCYC and the Capri.

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The Capri is the last vestige of North Minneapolis’ former theater district. When it was donated to PCYC in the mid-80s, “it was on its last legs,” said Scott.  Capri leaders believe there were once 13 theaters in the area.

   
  
   
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    The Capri Theater has a long history in the North Minneapolis community. Back in 1937, it was called “Paradise Theater.”  Photo courtesy of The Capri Theater

The Capri Theater has a long history in the North Minneapolis community. Back in 1937, it was called “Paradise Theater.” Photo courtesy of The Capri Theater

“We really see the Capri as a sacred space, and that we are the caretakers of it right now. …It’s our honor to do the best by it, so that it can be the fullest space that the community can possibly have,” said Long.

Scott says chance and a little bit of magic have kept the Capri alive during decades of development in Minneapolis: “There have been some stunning buildings torn down in the name of progress. I truly believe that it’s fate.”

At times forgotten, the Capri has recently seen a surge of national and even international attention since Prince passed away in 2016.

“People from all over the world have come,” said Long. “They run around and dance on the stage and touch the walls. …Good history resides.”

Both Scott and Long feel a responsibility to support both emerging and seasoned artists in the community, providing the platform that young Prince Rogers Nelson once received:

“It invigorates me to think that 50 years from now somebody is going to be sitting around a table going ‘the Capri was the place that my mom let me take the bus to because she knew it was a safe space,’” said Scott.

Kenzie O'Keefe