West Broadway developments take shape

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The 94-year old building at 2119 West Broadway Ave. N. that formerly housed the once-popular Delisi Bar and Grill (near the Penn Avenue/West Broadway intersection), might be getting new owners and an extreme renovation this year.

After past owners tried and failed to sell it in the late 1990s, Hennepin County foreclosed on the property in 1999. The City of Minneapolis bought it in October, 1999, and put it out for bids from developers earlier this year. Only one—The Ackerberg Group, which last year bought and renovated the building at 1101 West Broadway—responded to the Request for Proposals, according to Kristin Guild, CPED (Community Planning and Economic Development) department project coordinator.

“We only received one proposal but it is a strong proposal,” Guild said. “At the neighborhood review meetings there was overwhelming support at all levels.” The next steps, she said, will be holding a public hearing on the land sale and getting the Minneapolis City Council to approve it.

The hearing will likely not be scheduled for several months, she added; the Ackerberg Group is discussing terms with prospective tenant and possible co-owner, The Center for Communication and Development/KMOJ Radio.

Guild said the building has been empty and boarded since 1999. After the restaurant closed, she added, the city held some “visioning” meetings on the property. “There had been problems with crime in the area, and there was a lot of community concern, back then, about it being used as a bar again.” More recently, she added, that attitude seems to have changed.

“Neighbors want to see a use that serves the community and is arts-related,” she said. “They specifically talked about KMOJ going in there. We would really like to have a restaurant, where people could get a glass of wine or beer after work.”

Two years ago, Hennepin County designers created drawings that included a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) station at the corner. “There was the anticipation that it would be a major transfer point for BRT.” But lately, BRT is “in flux,” she added. “The commissioners have expressed a desire to more fully explore light rail.” The shelter proposed back then has not been included in the Ackerberg plans, although the intersection will continue to have a high volume of bus traffic.

In the meantime, she added, “it provides an interesting opportunity for the Delisi building.” A triangular-shaped building at the corner (to the west) was torn down, she added, “and now there is an opportunity to open up the whole side [where the Delisi building faces Penn]. There is a still a desire to have some form of public plaza at the corner,” she added.

The Ackerberg Group wants to buy the building for $25,000, according to Guild’s Dec. 11, 2007, report to the city council’s Community Development Committee. The total development cost is expected to be about $2,200,000. In Dec., 2006, a city appraiser valued the building at $109,400 (its “fair reuse value”) based on the assumption that it would be demolished and replaced by a new building. Six months later, after the “proposal we received was not for that use,” Guild said, the figure was reworked to $65,800 “to reflect the costs associated with rehabilitating the building and changes in the real estate market.”

Although the city would be getting $40,800 less than the established fair reuse value if it accepts the Ackerberg Group’s offer, city staff nonetheless recommends the sale. In Guild’s view, the building “has been a vacant, blighting influence on the corner for seven years.” Up to 27,000 vehicles pass the intersection daily, according to city traffic figures (done after West Broadway was rebuilt over the last two years). Guild wrote in her report that drivers and pedestrians “now see a derelict structure, a symbol of blight and decay at this highly-visible location. The purchaser proposes to restore and revitalize this building with active retail uses and studios for a community radio station, a 24-hour positive use and a powerful image of transformation.”

Plus, renovating the building is going to be expensive enough for the developer. In 2002, structural engineers estimated that stabilizing the building could cost between $360,000 and $560,000. “The building’s situation is not dire, but it does need a roof replacement; there has been water intrusion in the building. It needs tuck pointing. Some beams need shoring up.”

Guild said the city has a property management team that “mothballed the building. We can’t put a lot of city resources into it, but workers have done some tuck pointing on the Penn Avenue side, and some remedial roofing work. The building is sealed.”

Margo Geffen, Ackerberg Group development coordinator, said they have talked to an arts organization and six restaurateurs who might be interested in moving into the first floor of the Delisi building. “Our goal is to have a sit-down restaurant.”

The renovation will be smaller in scope than the 1101 West Broadway building, she added. If all goes well with the sale, “we would like to start construction in the spring, maybe in April or May. The work will take about four to five months.”

KMOJ owners are discussing to what degree they want to be involved in the development, Geffen said. The radio station is currently housed in a building the Ackerberg Group owns, at Lake and Hennepin in South Minneapolis.

James Cunningham, Jr., board chair at KMOJ, said the station is still negotiating with the Ackerberg Group and needs to “try and firm up the final numbers” that they will need to go forward with their financing. Being part-owner of a building will be a “paradigm shift” for KMOJ, Cunningham added.

Guild can be reached at 612-673-5168. The Ackerberg Group’s number is 612-924-6400.

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