Looking at 800 West Broadway, Minneapolis for Workforce Center


The former car dealership at 800 West Broadway would have new life, and George Sherman would control 48,000 more of the avenue’s business square feet if his proposal to put the new Workforce Center there gets the nod.

West Broadway Coalition’s Planning, Zoning and Development Committee liked it, though more people attending abstained than voted. Ultimately Sherman and Associates’ was the only proposal found to meet the requirements of a request for proposals sent out by DEED, the Department of Employment and Economic Development that oversees the workforce centers, according to Blake Chaffee, a DEED communications person.

A review team, which includes two members of a Community Advisory Committee (CAC), is expected to make their recommendation to DEED in late July or early August. The CAC will hold a series of meetings for the public, yet to be announced, in the next month or so.

While it’s not guaranteed this Workforce Center proposal would fly (there have been previous attempts which did not), here’s what we know Sherman told WBC he would propose:

The Workforce Center would be in back, with retail or other businesses in front, and possibly an educational institution taking up part of the second floor with non-public-contact Workforce Center functions in the other part. The building has 48,300 square feet and the Workforce Center wants 15,000.

Sherman said he’d had inquiries from three charter schools. DEED’s Request for Proposals included letters from North Memorial Clinics and Minneapolis Community and Technical College indicating possible interest.

At the West Broadway meeting, they passed around photos of the dealership in its early days. Sherman said he’d like to bring it back to “as built” and add elevators and all new mechanicals. The renovations would cost “$3 million-plus” (close to $4 million), self-financed with no public subsidy, just the promise of the long-term tenancy. How much DEED would pay for the space was undetermined, and the lease rate is one of the factors the review team will consider before making their recommendation.

The request for proposals states that “beyond relocating the Workforce Center, the aspiration of this project is…to develop an expanded concept that will help stimulate economic development in the community. The WorkForce Center, as anchor tenant, will provide a long-term lease, financial stability and significant customer traffic to attract complimentary co-tenants and retail offerings that will deliver additional benefits for customers, residents and the community at-large. An ideal development and tenant mix will aim to help build the local economy, improve individual independence and prosperity, enhance community wealth, and create a vibrant neighborhood asset.”

At the West Broadway committee meeting May 30, Third Ward Council Member Diane Hofstede underscored Sherman’s comments that the site has restrictions on it because of how the land was last acquired; it is now tax-forfeited and the city had a “hold” on it. There are federal liens and a requirement to produce 70 jobs, a condition put on the previous non-profit deal that failed to launch. Sherman said that his proposal would create 60-75 permanent jobs as well as 150-200 construction jobs.

The 800 West Broadway site is close to Hawthorn Crossings, also developed by Sherman, where he said parking was built to city requirements at the time and is now in excess; up to 40 percent unused even at peak hours. So the Hawthorn Crossings lot would be shared with the new development, 80 to 100 spaces. The 800 West Broadway building comes with 50 to 60 parking spaces of its own.

Sherman said he would see economies in providing professional security to the two developments, as well.

“The main goal is to get lights back on” at 800 West Broadway, Sherman said, suggesting that he will pursue the building anyway for retail development if the Workforce Center deal doesn’t go through. “I have the financial ability to do it,” he said, listing the dollar values of other recent projects throughout the metro area. “I don’t go away, I’ve been on West Broadway 25 years. This is not a flip, it’s a long term commitment.”

The West Broadway Committee also heard an $18 to $20 million proposal that would include a newly-built Workforce Center as part of an arts/housing complex at Penn and Broadway facilitating the Capri Theater expansion and incorporating three levels of underground parking. Urban Design Lab partnered with United Properties and submitted the proposal to DEED. According to a published report, the proposal arrived late, therefore was rejected. Architect Paul Bauknight clarified at the meeting that their firm has not been chosen to do the Capri expansion, it’s not at that stage yet.