By Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires
Minneapolis — The Minnesota Building in downtown St. Paul is in the early stages of its long-anticipated makeover.
Crews from Lloyd’s Construction Services have begun interior demolition in the 13-story building, the first step toward redeveloping the 101,000-square-foot, 80-year-old structure for 137 rental housing units, including some affordable units.
The plan also calls for 10,000 square feet of commercial and office space.
Waite Park-based Sand Companies is the contractor/developer for the project, which got a boost last fall when the St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority authorized the use of a cornucopia of public financing sources toward the Minnesota Building and other housing projects in the city.
Overall, the projects will create 252 housing units and preserve 35 affordable units; the city estimates that the work will provide as many as 300 construction jobs.
Sand Companies CEO Jamie Thelen described the Art Deco Minnesota Building project as a “historic rehab.” He said he wants to complete construction by the end of the year.
“We are real excited,” Thelen said. “It has been a long process and it feels good to get (interior demolition) going, and hopefully within the next 60 days we’ll start full construction.”
Thelen wasn’t ready to announce any specific tenants for the commercial or office space, although he said one tenant is in line and will be announced after full construction begins.
The HRA financing was designed to kick-start $71 million worth of housing projects, including the 45-unit second phase of the Commerce Building Apartments and the 70-unit Renaissance Box project in addition to the Minnesota Building.
HRA-approved financing sources for the projects include HOME funds, bridge financing from the St. Paul Foundation, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, the Tax Credit Assistance Program, and the Section 1602 Tax Credit Exchange Program through the 2008 Housing and Economic Recovery Act and the 2009 Recovery Act.
At least one other job on that list of kick-started projects is gearing up for construction this spring. Minneapolis nonprofit housing developer Aeon wants to close on its financing for the Renaissance Box project during the first quarter with construction starting shortly after that.
Aeon has been working through some details related to final design, construction documents and National Park Service approvals for the historic Renaissance Box building, according to Gina Ciganik, Aeon’s vice president of housing development.
“We are hoping to hear from our National Park Service folks by the end of January or early February,” Ciganik said. “We don’t expect any issues; they know the building. It’s a process you go through, and they are busy.”
Ciganik said the Renaissance Box building, a former shoe factory, will accommodate efficiencies, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom dwelling spaces once it’s up and running as an apartment building.
The goal is to begin construction in March with completion in March 2011.
“We are excited to be in the final throes of getting the Renaissance Box ready to roll,” Ciganik said. “It will be a fantastic asset for that community and preserve a great building that has had a long, rocky road for many years.”
Likewise, plans to redevelop the Minnesota Building for residential use have been in the works for years.
As far back as 2003, California-based engineering and construction firm TEC announced it was working with Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Bridgecreek Group to “transform the Minnesota Building into a mixed-use commercial and high-end residential space.”
Thelen said the building was vacant when Sand Companies bought it in spring 2006.