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Thursday, January 29, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 32.0° F  Overcast
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Club Majestic for sale
In the meantime, it will continue controversial hip-hop shows
Will Club Majestic remain a nightclub?
Will Club Majestic remain a nightclub?

Jim Schiavo confirms that Club Majestic, 115 King St., is for sale. The nightclub's weekend hip-hop nights have been accused of contributing to recent bar-time violence on King Street, but Schiavo says conflicts with the police department and other King Street business owners over security concerns have nothing to do with the club being put on the market.

Schiavo runs Club Majestic and the Cafà Continental restaurant with his father Anthony and brother Nick. "My brother is having health problems, and we have chosen to move on and continue our success at Cafà Continental," he explains. He adds that Nick, Club Majestic's founder, is still dealing with the aftereffects of a blow to the head he suffered during a violent assault last April in a downtown parking lot.

Schiavo says several parties have expressed interest in the club, which was fashioned from the Majestic Theatre, a vaudeville-house-turned-movie-theater that opened in 1906. He won't reveal the asking price. The city of Madison assessor's Web site indicates that the Schiavos purchased the building in 2002 for $718,000.

Schiavo won't say whether any of the prospective buyers intends to operate Club Majestic as a nightclub, although he "hopes someone carries on its great entertainment tradition."

Whatever happens to the building, city preservation planner Kitty Rankin says the theater's landmark status requires that any plans to demolish it, or alter its exterior, be approved by Madison's Landmarks Commission. Rankin notes that the Majestic is sandwiched between two other landmark buildings, the King Street Arcade and the Dick Block. (The latter is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.)

Schiavo has plenty of experience running large entertainment complexes. Before moving back from Chicago to help run the family businesses, he was general manager of the ESPN Zone. With help from current staff, he plans to keep Club Majestic up and running until a buyer is found.

"We've booked a ton of live shows with Frank Productions," he says. "We have a pretty aggressive schedule, and we'll still be doing hip-hop.... We're not going to change what we do."

The waiting game

Chazen Museum of Art director Russell Panczenko keeps telling himself that he has to be patient. In July, the Chazen announced that a request for proposed designs of a $35 million, 62,000-square-foot expansion would be posted shortly on Wisconsin's state projects Web site. But that hasn't happened.

"We're trying to get our preliminary architect selection process going," Panczenko explains. "In fact, we've kind of done our part of the work. At the same time, we're part of the state, and it's up in the Department of Administration. It was supposed to be posted in July; now it's the middle of August. I keep hearing, 'Yes, it's going to be up next week, next week.'"

The Chazen (nee the Elvehjem Museum of Art) isn't waiting to alert prospective architects of the opportunity. The museum has contacted a long list of major firms like Coop Himmelb(l)au, Morphosis and TEN Arquitectos, who number among the most talked-about and creative architects on the planet.

While the Chazen expansion isn't enormous by global standards, it will be a freestanding new building, and Panczenko feels the challenge of pairing something quite contemporary with the Chazen's current Harry Weese-designed structure should pique firms' interest.

Panczenko says that the museum and the project's lead donors, Simona and Jerome Chazen, feel an obligation to add something exciting to the campus landscape. "We're an art museum," he says. "We have to make some kind of artistic statement."

He adds that per state statute, the design architect will be required to pair with a Wisconsin firm.

The Chazens gave $20 million toward the project. Another $6 million has been raised since their gift was announced last year. Once an architect is chosen, the museum will kick off a capital campaign to raise the balance of the $35 million construction costs.

Panczenko has no firm timetable at present, but he hopes an architect will be in place by the end of the fall. If all goes well, construction will begin by 2008.

With the price of energy and construction materials threatening to rise ever higher, getting the process moving soon is important. "The more time we lose," Panczenko says bluntly, "the more costs go up."

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