Prince has left the building. Sort of.
His ashes are no longer on display for tours at Paisley Park museum. And fans are disappointed.
"I felt sad when I heard," said Marilynn McNair, of Atlanta, who has been to Paisley three times since Prince died in April 2016, and she's returning there next month.
"If anyone should be in Paisley Park, it's Prince," she said in a phone interview. "Did the relatives spirit [the ashes] away somewhere and they're going to be buried or divvied up in their homes? You don't really know what's going on."
Omarr Baker, Prince's brother, says the ashes are still at the Paisley Park complex, "just not on display."
Explaining the move, he said, "Three years is enough time to mourn. There's a season for everything."
As with many things involving the Prince estate, his heirs disagree.
"I'm very upset with this. I think one or two heirs approved the move," said Sharon Nelson, the oldest of Prince's six surviving siblings. "They claimed that people were getting too emotional and sad."
Nelson feels Prince's ashes should be somewhat accessible to family and fans alike.
"I may want to go and sit and reminisce with him. Just like he went to the graveyard to see our mom and dad where they are," she said. "I felt the fans also wanted to be close and know that Prince was there.
"The other heirs want people to be happy at Paisley," she added. "You are happy, and you mourn, too."
Nelson would like to see a mausoleum for the ashes built on the grounds of Paisley Park.
"Then the fans could always know where Prince was," she said.
She even got an artist's rendering for the mausoleum and a bid of $400,000 from a potential builder in Tennessee. "It was going to be just gorgeous — white and purple. But no [heirs] agreed with me."
Having just learned about the ashes situation last week during the heirs' monthly meeting with estate administrators Comerica Bank and Trust, Nelson said the ashes are in Paisley's "pre-vault."
That's a room outside the basement vault in which Prince stored his unreleased recordings, videos and films.
The contents of the vault have been moved to Iron Mountain, a facility in Los Angeles for storage and cataloging.
History of his ashes
The ashes have their own history at Paisley Park.
When Prince's 65,000 square-foot studio in Chanhassen was first opened as a museum in October 2016, the ashes were in a custom-made ceramic urn shaped like Paisley Park with his symbol on top. The urn stood in the middle of the floor of the studio's atrium, greeting visitors in the first room on the Paisley tour.
"It was overwhelming in a good way," said McNair, 61, an executive assistant for an automotive company. "It was very emotional, very apropos of the situation being so recent. It was reverential, and we were given time to stand and look. It was a beautiful thing."
By December 2016, the urn was moved, at the request of Prince's family, from the floor of the atrium to a frosted plastic case attached to the front of the balcony in the atrium.
"I thought it was a little reductive. You really couldn't see anything," said McNair, who last year went to "Celebration," a multiday Prince event featuring panel discussions and performances at Paisley. "He deserved a better place of honor, so to speak."
McNair, who worked at Warner Bros. Records in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s during Prince's heyday there, plans to return to Paisley Park in April for the third annual "Celebration."
She likes the idea of a mausoleum on the Paisley grounds.
"If you've been to Graceland, Elvis [Presley] is buried in his backyard with his mom, dad and grandmother," said McNair, a Prince fan since 1979. "It might seem corny on the surface, but not when you're a fan."
However, there would be a hitch with such a proposal, according to Chanhassen city officials. "A mausoleum is not listed as a permitted or conditional use in the current zoning," said Kate Aanenson, the city's community development director.
Meanwhile, on Paisley tours, Mitch Maguire, Paisley's tour manager, used to give a speech inviting visitors to pay their respects in front of the urn in the atrium. There are even boxes of tissues in the room.
Maguire said he's received no complaints from museum-goers about the ashes no longer being on display.
"Now we ask for a moment of reflection in the atrium," he said.
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719