The Luminary Arts Center will begin lighting the North Loop this fall

Minnesota Opera beautifies the Lab Theater in downtown Minneapolis and gives it a new name: the Luminary Arts Center.

The North Loop site, which is in the midst of a $6 million renovation, will open in September. At 224, it will not only house select Minnesota Opera productions, but will also be available for rental by artists and troupes.

“We’ve put some good work into it to make it safer and more artistically exciting,” the Minnesota Opera president said. ryan taylor noted. “I’m excited for everyone to see it and for us to be able to make it a space to connect with the community as a whole.”

Best known for its big productions at St. Paul’s 1,900-seat Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, the Minneapolis-based nonprofit bought the former warehouse in February 2019 for $1.9 million, according to county property records.

The venue has been a performing arts destination since 1988, when the Guthrie Theater launched it as a secondary stage to develop new work. With Guthrie’s move in 2006 to a new three-story waterfront complex, freelance producer Mary Kelley Leer took over the space, filling the Lab with theater, dance, and burlesque performances.

In the meantime, the North Loop has undergone a rapid redevelopment. The fear that an important artistic place could become a car park prompted the opera to intervene.

“Many groups have used it and called it their home,” Taylor said, pointing to the recent sale of Aria, formerly the home of the Young Moon Theater, as evidence of development pressure in the area. This event center, which hosted occasional shows, has now become a church.

The Minnesota Opera already had three North Loop warehouses, renovated in 1990, which houses its headquarters, rehearsal rooms, costume shop and warehouse. The new Luminary Arts Center will bring the total opera campus in Minneapolis to 62,500 square feet.

Before the pandemic, the company held smaller performances in the lab — including its Project Opera youth training program — six to eight weeks a year, Taylor said. It will be closer to 12 in the season that starts this fall.

Last year, the Opera began the $6 million renovation of the 8,000-square-foot building, adding a freight elevator and improving facade fixtures, among other things. New flooring will make the stage safer for dancers and new acoustic treatments will make the space more flexible.

The nonprofit will offer the space at “rates that we believe are both fair and competitive,” said Taylor, who has run the Opera House since 2016. Nonprofits under a certain budget will pay less than organizations with larger budgets.

Over several months, the non-profit organization reviewed around 60 potential names for the venue. “Luminary” was a late addition, Taylor said.

“I really loved that it was a space of light and that light and creation tend to go together,” he said.

“It gave me a spark of hope.”

Writer Rohan Preston contributed to this report.

William E. Bennett