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Makeover to turn old museum into a church

By Bill Clements
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — The former Science Museum of Minnesota building in downtown St. Paul is undergoing a $3 million transformation into the new local headquarters for the Church of Scientology.

The Clearwater, Fla.-based denomination, which claims more than 8,000 churches and adherents in 165 countries, has been headquartered in the Twin Cities in Minneapolis since 1991.

That will change when the renovated, three-story, 80,640-square-foot building in St. Paul reopens as a Scientology Ideal Church and the denomination’s local headquarters.

The church bought the building in June 2007 for $3.5 million, according to Ramsey County tax records. It had planned to renovate and occupy the building by the spring of 2008, but that didn’t happen because of the sagging economy.

At the time, the building had been vacant for about a year. It opened in 1977 as the Science Museum of Minnesota; after the museum moved in 1999, it became the Minnesota Business Academy, until the academy went out of business in 2006.

Coincidentally, though the Church of Scientology is exempt from property taxes as a religious organization, the Ramsey County tax records show that the building and 0.73 of an acre of land it sits on are valued at $3.5 million for 2010-11 for property tax purposes.

According to records for St. Paul’s Department of Safety and Inspections, the remodeling permit that lists the value of the renovation at $2.5 million was issued for the project March 29; in addition, a permit for electrical work valued at $530,000 was issued March 31.

The contractor on the remodeling project is JE Dunn Construction, Eden Prairie; Minneapolis-based Elliott Contracting Corp. is doing the electrical work.

Architectural plans that the San Francisco office of architectural firm Gensler filed with the city in May 2009 indicate that most of the remodeling will occur inside. There will be some “miscellaneous repair work occurring at the exterior and roof of the building,” according to the plans.

An apparently altered image of the building exterior included on the church’s Web site under the listing of “Upcoming Ideal Church of Scientology Twin Cities, USA” shows a light pink building front, with the church’s symbols and the name “Church of Scientology” atop the front doors.

The building still houses a 300-seat theater, which the Church of Scientology is maintaining “with fixed theater seating from level 2 to level 3” as its chapel, according to the Gensler plans.

The church’s Twin Cities headquarters also will include a bookstore, offices, adult classrooms, counseling rooms, a small gym and a small cafe, according to the project description included in the plans.

In addition, the renovated structure will contain on the third floor separate saunas and changing rooms for men and women, according to the Gensler plans.

3 comments

  1. Scientology is a cult and a scam. Get these con artists out of my city.

  2. These guys only have about 25k members in the whole United States. They’ve been convicted of fraud in France and have been fighting massive legal battles all over the world. They’ve suffered a massive PR black eye. How can they afford to be renovating, opening and running buildings of this size and scope?

  3. Lafayette Ronald

    It is good to see local contractors getting work and making some money. That’s the only good that will come from this. This cult is bad news. Minneapolis will be better off with them gone.

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