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New Music Hall Planned for Canal

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"We believe the Canal is going to be huge," says Jeff Sadler, who is working with a silent partner and investor to develop the site in a building they declined to identify. Sadler has experience with the Richmond market and its taste in music. A partner with Turning Point Development, he's produced concerts and events for years citywide and regionally, including the annual Cinco de Mayo festival on Brown's Island.

Sadler's financier, who requested anonymity, is a local cardiologist, Yale University graduate and music lover who worked during college at Toad's Place in New Haven, Conn. He predicted that the same venue could work elsewhere.

Sadler's convinced Richmond is that place. There's a "critical mass and energy vortex," he says, which seem to be coalescing along the city's riverfront. But more to the point, he says, "I get calls from agents all the time that want to bring in shows, and I don't have a place to put them." Such venues as the Canal Club and Alley Katz regularly sell out shows for audiences half the size of the projected crowds for Toad's Place, he says.

As for the range of performers, he says, Richmonders could expect to see such names as Blues Traveler, Tower of Power, Robert Randolph and Patti Smith.

Toad's Place opened near Yale's campus in 1975. Since, it's hosted performances by everyone from Dizzie Gillespie to U2. The Rolling Stones even kicked off their 1989 "Steel Wheels" tour there.

If finalized, Richmond's version of the music hall will be housed in a 17,000-square-foot portion of one of two buildings along the Canal Walk undergoing redevelopment. The three-tiered venue will feature box seating and have an adjustable stage. Think of it as a cross between a nightclub and the Carpenter Center, Sadler says. A search is on for an enterprising restaurateur to plan a menu, he says — perhaps something along the lines of a Sidewalk Café.

Because the lease was in final negotiations Nov. 29, Sadler declined to confirm the exact location for the performance venue other than to say it's on the canal. The expected completion date is fall 2005, which coincides with the 30th anniversary and yearlong celebration of Toad's Place in New Haven. — Brandon Walters

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