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‘A’ Mill will soon be home to artist community

Updated: March 27, 2015 - 2:31 pm

One of Minneapolis’ oldest relics is set to reopen this summer with new life. 

The Pillsbury “A” Mill complex, which put the city on the map as the country’s flour-milling capital, will open as a four-building artist loft community in July.

The developer, Plymouth-based Dominium, may also continue the mill’s history of industrial innovation by adapting the century-old infrastructure into a hydro energy project, which may be the only one of its kind in the nation. 

As part of the first phase of development, a few dozen artists have already moved to the riverfront in the four-story Warehouse 2 building, the wood-frame building next to The Soap Factory. Residents began moving into the 43 units in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood last December.

The second phase includes the iconic limestone “A” Mill, built in 1881, that will house 115 units, along with the 23-unit Red Clay Tile Building and 70-unit Cleaning House. 

The development, with a total of 251 units, will also include several artist-focused amenities, from a resident art gallery to clay studio, and even a culinary kitchen.

Dominium is also hoping to power about 70 percent of the development’s electricity needs with a hydroelectric project that harnesses what was once the mill’s water-powered flour operation. The developer began planning the hydropower project last year and is making its way through the regulatory process. Dominium hopes to complete construction on the project this year.

An nearly finished loft in the “A” Mill complex features original support beams and tall, open rooms. 

  

A-Mill Artist Lofts, much like Dominium’s artists lofts within the 125-year-old Schmidt’s Brewery in St. Paul, will create a hub for Northeast Minneapolis creatives along the picturesque Main Street riverfront where housing is competitive and expensive. The development is restricted to artists making under $40,000 annually and rent is far lower than many of the neighboring market-rate complexes. 

“It’s an attractive project,” Patrick Ostrom, a development associate, said. “[Artist loft] units end up being what you would get in a market-rate project for about half the cost.”

The developer hopes that residents become a vibrant part of the community and engage one another with their art, which may range from sculpture to music or cooking. Ostrom said there’s even a resident juggler in Schmidt’s Brewery. A third-party committee assesses each potential resident’s application for a commitment to art, regardless of medium. Residents don’t have to be full-time artists or make their income from art.

A commitment to art unifies this future community. David Lepak, a community manager with A-Mill Artist Lofts, said about half of both current and future residents reported wanting to move to the housing project because they could network and collaborate with other artists.

And residents will have plenty of chances to view one another’s work. As part of the three buildings opening this summer, the developer plans to curate resident art in an on-site gallery. Lepak said there are also plenty of spaces throughout the complex that could house art in the future. 

Linda Banning, a full-time crafter of glass jewelry, now lives in the first phase of development where she runs a studio out of her loft. She had heard of Dominium’s other artist loft development while living in Uptown and decided to join a community that matched her interests.

“I wasn’t living with my people. I wanted to live with my people. When I saw the opportunity come up, I had to jump on it,” she said. 

She said the development is unique in the area because it attracts different kinds of art and with them, all different kinds of people. In just the open units, Banning said she’s seen people of all ages who are writers, dancers and musicians.

Paul Spring, a musician, and his girlfriend, a visual artist, moved from a small town to live and work out of their loft in Warehouse 2. Spring said the music practice space will be especially helpful for them because studio space is costly elsewhere in the city. Other amenities set to open this summer include a performance center, a studio for painters and even a large open space for whatever residents could think to do. 

The development’s future community space is nearly complete and will open later this year.

 

The new life coming to the historic landmark follows much of Northeast Minneapolis where many former industrial spaces now house the city’s booming creative businesses, though rarely do they include affordable housing. The 35-unit ArtsSpace Jackson Flats opened in 2013 and is the only similar affordable artist housing development in the area. 

Spring said the development and its community was an incredible opportunity for them to bring their art to Northeast Minneapolis. Banning said she’s excited for the housing to attract more artists to Minneapolis later this year, as the historic mill reopens after more than a decade.

“I feel so great and so lucky. I’m never leaving,” she laughed. “This summer is going to be big.”

A rendering from Dominium shows the finished artist loft development.

 

Eric Best // ebest@mnpubs.com // 612.436.5088 // @ericthebest