State Theatre & Salerno Building

The State Theater was built in 1936 and was owned by the Swanson family in Ely. Its designer was a noted architecture firm called Liebenberg & Kaplan, who had designed many theaters in Minnesota and other northern states.

The building was in great disrepair with a roof that was leaking for some time. Although the steel roof structure had not been compromised, a new rubber EPDM roof and insulation was installed. The masonry on the rear of the building’s east and west corner was rebuilt, and mold remediation was completed. The goal with this historic building was to work with the State of Minnesota and the U.S. Department of Interior Guidelines to restore the exterior and interior to its original condition.

Ely State Theater, LLC and E. Sheridan Properties, LLC is currently working to complete a multi-purpose independent theater that will show films and also have the capability of accommodating musical events and possibly live theater.

A unique number of development tools were used to bring this project to reality. The start of this effort was a special agreement with St. Louis County and the Ely EDA to allow the property to be purchased out of tax delinquent status and then conveyed to the developer for cost. What followed was a combination of loans from the Northland Foundation, the Entrepreneur Fund, a local bank, developer equity, and a forgivable loan facilitated by the EEDA from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Department. The ultimate “cherry” on the sundae was Historic Tax Credits through the State of Minnesota.

By incorporating the adjacent Salerno Building to the east, this independent theater operation can house an additional but smaller screening room for smaller audiences, as well as a spacious casual food/concessions component and social area that will accommodate customers before, during, and after movie screenings.

On the second floor of the two buildings, there will be several up to date office/business incubation spaces. The plans also include reconditioning the iconic State Theater marquee as a reminder of all the social and entertainment experiences the people of Ely have encountered for almost 80 years.

Work on this project is scheduled to be completed by November 2019.

The State Theatre and Salerno renovations represents a high profile “signature” project in Ely’s downtown corridor. It is inspiring both additional private investment as well as an opportunity to demonstrate an ability to complete a complicated project with a public – private partnership between multiple players. It becomes a template for future community projects, some of which are already on the drawing boards.

For more information, check out Alley A Realty and!

Services Utilized

  • Commercial Redevelopment Grant Program

  • Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT)
  • Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (IRRRB)
  • Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)
  • Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties
  • The Ely Economic Development Authority