Pillsbury A Mill to be converted to affordable housing

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Two developers are accumulating grants to renovate property in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.

Minnesota-based company Dominium received $200,000 from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to renovate the historic Pillsbury A Mill into affordable housing.

DEED granted a different developer about $180,000 for the renovation of a vacant building at 700 Central Ave.

Dominium hopes to turn the mill building into apartments specifically for artists. So far, the company gathered about $870,000 in various grants, but the entire project will cost around $112 million, said Owen Metz, a senior development associate at Dominium.

The mill will be converted into a 255-unit apartment building with 18 studios, 184 one-bedrooms, 38 two-bedrooms and 15 three-bedroom apartments, said Dollie Crowther, the project’s manager and a coordinator with the city of Minneapolis.

The apartment building will also have many different art galleries for the residents to display their work and communal areas like a rooftop deck, she said.

Since the building is a registered historical landmark, the developers can only renovate the interior of the building.

“It’s going to need an awful lot of work to turn it into affordable housing,” Crowther said.

There have been past attempts to redevelop the A Mill, Crowther said — the latest by developer Schafer Richardson. But that project failed due to a lack of funds.

But Metz said Dominium is confident it will be able to develop the mill. Because of the high renovation costs, Dominium wouldn’t be able to secure grant funding if the company wanted to turn the mill into market-rate housing or condos –– thus the project became about affordable housing.

“We’re really excited about saving the A Mill,” Metz said. “It’s finally going to be saved after 10 years of being vacant.”

The Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association supports the project, as affordable housing has been in the neighborhood’s master plan for a decade, said MHNA President Doug Carlson.

The artist influence will also help revitalize the area, said Ben Heywood, executive director of the Soap Factory — an art gallery located close to the mill.

“You’re both saving historic buildings and bringing something new to the neighborhood,” he said.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes in this neighborhood, from it being a purely industrial district, to being an essentially abandoned district for the past 10 years or so, to finally someone here developing the A Mill … and I feel like that’s a very good use for that space.”

700 Central Ave.

The A Mill and 700 Central Ave. grants were part of a larger set of grants DEED gave in late March — $2.4 million to 11 different projects to revitalize blighted property in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the greater metro.

Noland Properties Inc. got a grant to  renovate the old furniture warehouse building on Central Avenue, at the edge of Marcy-Holmes, into a 105-unit apartment building. The developer has raised $921,000 in grants so far, said Irene Dassier, a staff assistant at DEED.

The building will also have 10,000 square feet of retail space, said Jerry LePage, the project’s coordinator. The renovation will include some nearby buildings, including adding three stories to one.

There is no date set for beginning of construction for either project as the developers still need to raise more money, Crowther said.