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Muse breaks ground in Sturgeon Bay

The music school and concert venue is scheduled for completion next May

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October 3, 2023

STURGEON BAY – Come spring, music will fill the air in downtown Sturgeon Bay as construction has already begun on Muse, a music school and concert venue.

“This is a unique project that will have the potential to impact Sturgeon Bay for decades to come,” Sturgeon Bay Mayor David Ward said. “Personally, I like this project and thank Shirley Weese Young for her vision and investment in Sturgeon Bay.”

Local officials, project stakeholders, members of the public, as well as members of the arts community, came together late last month for an official groundbreaking, signifying the start of construction.

“I am honored to introduce this monumental project to the Sturgeon Bay and Door County Community,” Muse’s Executive Director Kaira Rouer said.

The two-story building, being constructed on the corner of 3rd Avenue and Jefferson Street, will house a music school and venue on the ground level.

The second floor will include 11 affordable studio apartments – which aims to help alleviate the area’s emerging housing needs in the Sturgeon Bay community.

Construction is now underway on the Muse development in Sturgeon Bay. Jennifer Much Photo

“As a school, we aim to create a safe and accessible space for music learners of all kinds to grow and collaborate,” Rouer said.

Music lessons, as well as year-round musical events, will be hosted at Muse.

The venue, Rouer said, will also have the capacity to host meetings, weddings and other special events. 

“Collectively, it is our highest priority to support the community in their musical interests throughout the year,” she said. “Our diverse skills and passion for the arts and music are the reason we are here – to celebrate the kick-off of such an amazing community-building opportunity. We will give space to teachers to meet on neutral ground, as well as build a network of resources where parents and students can connect with mentors and peers to perform alongside.”

The development will also include a dedicated area that will serve as a community gathering place complete with a spacious patio and publicly accessible restrooms. 

Dave Utzinger, Muse’s artistic director, said he believes Muse will be a beneficial addition to the community for everyone.

“As a community performance venue, Muse looks to both bring artists to Door County and to support local acts,” he said. “We have outlined a big set of plans, but if we dream big and we work hard, we can achieve many, if not all, of our goals and greatly enhance and enrich the lives of the Door County community in the process.”

The nonprofit entered into a development agreement with Shirley Weese Young, the project’s developer – which Utzinger said paved the way for the dream to become a reality.

Under the agreement, once completed, Muse will have a minimum assessed value of $4 million – with the city providing $900,000 in financial assistance in 15 annual payments of $60,000.

Young has been behind a handful of other local establishment updates.

The Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) Executive Director Michelle Lawrie said she worked directly with Young, Rouer and Utzinger on this project and feels the project’s benefit will be substantial, especially to the local economy.

“Muse Sturgeon Bay is impactful to the economy in Sturgeon Bay – and Door County – in many ways,” Lawrie said. “It will add to the growing arts-orientated cluster in downtown Sturgeon Bay, which currently includes the performing arts, visual arts and musical opportunities.”

This rendering is what Muse Sturgeon Bay will look like when completed next May. Submitted Rendering

Lawrie also said the new opportunity will provide an environment that draws people in, bringing additional business to local shops and restaurants in the downtown vicinity and beyond.

“Muse Sturgeon Bay will also enhance Sturgeon Bay as a place where people want to live, encouraging new residents to relocate to our community,” she said.

Though Lawrie didn’t have an estimated number of construction jobs the project is creating, she noted two, new full-time positions in direct connection with the venue were established, as well as countless opportunities for contracted musicians. 
Mayor Ward said it is too early to estimate economic impact, including jobs, “but the potential is there.”

Gary Ciepluch – an associate professor emeritus in the Department of Music at Case Western Reserve University and serves as Muse’s board president – said the project will help unify the community in a more fulfilling and wholesome way.

“When you come down this street in May, it’s going to be the most unbelievable closure to downtown,” Ciepluch said. “I’m a little emotional because behind us is a miracle, (and) I am hoping we can sustain it through the generosity of all of you here and through people in the community.”

The project is expected to be completed sometime in May 2024.

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