Our Stories

Duluth Raises the Curtain on a Dynamic New Theater

In an op-ed for the Duluth News-Tribune, LISC Duluth’s director Pam Kramer describes how the renovated NorShor Theatre, a historic Art Deco gem, will help anchor the city’s efforts to spark an arts and culture economy. A complex set of public-private partnerships brought the theater back to life, and will nurture local artists, launch arts programs and create good jobs.

The op-ed below was originally published in the Duluth News-Tribune:
Local view: Restored NorShor buoys arts, jobs, opportunities in Duluth

Above photo credit: Nicole Modeen Photography

When the cast of "Mamma Mia" took the stage at the NorShor Theatre this week, they brought much more than a burst of ABBA-inspired energy to the downtown waterfront. Whether they knew it or not, they helped fulfill a long-term plan to rev up Duluth's arts-and-culture economy.

In this, the NorShor Theatre is a brightly lit capstone, joining the restaurants, boutiques, galleries, and hotels that already have revitalized much of Superior Street. Its redevelopment has spanned two mayoral administrations and required a complicated mix of public-private partnerships to move forward. But the result is magnificent. It has reclaimed its sleek art deco style and is ready to host Broadway shows, nurture local artists, launch community arts programs, and create good jobs for local residents.

The revival of the NorShor illustrates an important local strategy: leveraging our rich history and our community assets to raise standards of living for people all across Duluth.

We have seen a similar effect in Lincoln Park, where the Craft Business District and revitalized Clyde Park have taken off. Neither of them would have moved forward without insightful planning, strong partnerships, and a range of funding that cultivates innovation and grows local investment.

A glimpse of a stage set and the historic design elements of the newly refurbished NorShor Theatre in Duluth.
A glimpse of a stage set and the historic design elements of the newly refurbished NorShor Theatre in Duluth.

The $30 million NorShor redevelopment has a compelling story all its own.

Back in 2010, the city purchased the troubled century-old property as a way to eliminate blight and preserve an important piece of our past.

The rest of the cast included Sherman and Associates, an experienced developer, which took leadership and a risk in leading this process, securing partners and funding and overseeing construction.

The Duluth Playhouse stepped in with a vision for the NorShor's future and a plan to manage the new space.

The city and Duluth Economic Development Authority helped to secure needed local and state funding and historic tax credits.

And the nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corporation, or LISC, brought vital predevelopment capital and an allocation of federal New Markets Tax Credits to fuel the effort.

In addition, other investments and charitable contributions have, and continue to, come in from investors, local institutions and individuals. Literally, a cast of thousands has played a role in the NorShor's rebirth.

As Duluth LISC's executive director, I was thrilled to be part of this unique partnership. I congratulate the many people and organizations that contributed to this historical touchstone. With this restoration, we recognize the arts as a vital part of our economic and social lives. Generations of families will benefit from programming at the NorShor, and our city will see the long-term gains.

The NorShor demonstrates what can happen when committed local leaders and patient capital providers come together. It also speaks to the enormous value of government programs that are specifically designed to spur economic activity. Without them, the NorShor would still be an aging eyesore.

The NorShor Theatre brings new life and a new legacy. And now that we've rediscovered this lost local treasure, we need to support it. Let's show up for the big shows, the creative programs, and the special events — even when road construction impacts local traffic and even on frigid February nights. The NorShor promises to be a tremendous resource for our community and our economy. Together, let's make it thrive for years to come.


Pam Kramer, Duluth LISC Executive Director
Pam Kramer has been the director of Duluth LISC since the office opened in 1997. Under her leadership, Duluth LISC has directly invested over $90 million in LISC grants, loans and equity investments in Duluth, directly leveraging over $302 million in development into the community to date. Pam has a Master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning and over 30 years of experience in community development, neighborhood planning and revitalization and community building.