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PUBLISHED: Sunday, February 25, 2007 Former theater revived Developer has high hopes for St. Louis building By ROSEMARY HORVATH Sun Staff Writer
Once a popular spot for films and plays, the dormant Gem Theater has been reincarnated and will reinvigorate downtown St. Louis as an entertainment destination again. Owner Minard Shattuck of Mt. Pleasant has transformed the first floor of the three-story building now called Center Stage @ The Gem Theater. A March 14 open house will give the community a chance to view the new look and hear Shattuck's band Blues Ambush perform. His daughter, Natalie Shattuck, a freshman at Central Michigan University, will sing with the band.
"The event is free," Shattuck said. "We want people to stop by because we'll be your neighbor." Tickets for the inaugural show set for March 17 will go on sale soon. Blues Ambush will open for contemporary blues artist Larry McCray, a personal friend of Shattuck's who's touring the West Coast. Shattuck has adopted "Bringing back a new Spirit of St. Louis" as his slogan. For sure, one person's spirit has been lifted. "We're happy to have a building back in use," Phil Hansen, St. Louis downtown development director, said. "An entertainment center like that is unique to a small town."
Hansen went on to say he expects Center Stage will draw new visitors to downtown and be an attraction for the locals who enjoy music. When he bought the building in 2005, Shattuck said, he envisioned the movie theater turned playhouse turned church as a rehearsal hall for his band. It didn't take long for him to appreciate its hidden potential. Shattuck put in new systems for sound and lighting. Seating capacity is 203 and he provided a small space for dancing. Shattuck foresees Center Stage as a venue for live bands Thursday through Saturday, jam sessions on Sundays, business and group conferences and meetings during the week and recording studio. "We're looking at teen events in the summer," he added.
The only smoking will be smokin' instruments as Center Stage is tobacco-free. A concession stand will sell some refreshments and bagged snacks. As building inspector for the city of Mt. Pleasant, Shattuck knew about city building codes. "So naturally we were very pleased with his construction work," Hansen said. Shattuck did most of the restoration work himself and hired trade contractors. "I feel good about this," he said. "Center Stage will bring in a clean, fun atmosphere. I'm going on the adage: If you build it, they will come."