Northrop to get a makeover

Northrop Auditorium is scheduled to close next October, and will reopen as a completely different place. University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks appointed an advisory committee two years ago to look at the future of Northrop. Steven Rosenstone, vice president for scholarly and cultural affairs, said that committee concluded Northrop needs some changes made. âÄúIf Northrop does not serve students and faculty of this university, if Northrop does not serve the academic priorities of the University, and better serve the community, turn it into a parking structure,âÄù Rosenstone, who was one of the committee chairmen, said. But rather than a parking structure, some parts of 1920s building will be converted to serve other functions. ItâÄôs planned that historic parts, such as Memorial Hall, will be preserved. The wiring and plumbing in the building are mostly from the 1920s, and replacement parts canâÄôt be found for the current seats, which were put in during the 1950s, Sally Dischinger, NorthropâÄôs operations manager said. The main auditorium will likely be reduced from 4,765 seats to around 2,800 to improve acoustics and sight lines. It will also free up space in the building. University administrators plan to make that free space public. Plans include adding a café and also increasing the amount of lounge space on the Minneapolis campus. âÄúItâÄôs a place youâÄôre going to be in every day. ItâÄôs the place students are going to want to bring their parents when theyâÄôre on campus,âÄù Rosenstone said. Part of the building could also become an academic center. The University Honors Program, the Institute for Advanced Study , and Innovation by Design will all have their offices in the building. There will be rooms for seminars, and meetings. As the committee envisions the new Northrop, it will become a place to showcase the UniversityâÄôs artistry and research Ben Johnson , the director of concerts and lectures at Northrop, said. Plans also include creating new performance spaces, including a 225-seat black box theatre and maybe even a venue on the roof, Johnson said. Despite Northrop being closed next year, programming through the University will continue. The Ted Mann Concert Hall on the West Bank campus will become the main space for events, but spaces all over the community will be used, he said. Commencement will likely be moved to Mariucci Arena in 2010, Craig Flor, the assistant program director for Intercollegiate Athletics, said, where a stage would be constructed on the floor. The $70 million needed to complete the changes will come from a combination of private donors and a University bonding authority. âÄúThe University has decided not to bring this project as, if you will, a line-item like the Bell Museum, to the state Legislature,âÄù Rosenstone said. HGA Architects and Engineers have been hired to plan the project, but said it was too early to discuss the details of any changes.