The building at the northeast corner of Broadway & Central is curiously unknown, considering its prominent location at an intersection that is one of the major gateways to Northeast.
Part of that anonymity has to do with the fact that the structure is sunken down below both roads, making it appear much more modest than it actually is. The building also doesn’t draw much attention with its tenants — originally built as a mattress factory, it was more recently home to a paper company.
The low profile of the building won’t last much longer. In early 2013, the building at 945 Broadway St. NE will officially reopen as The Broadway, a mixed-use office space with tenants likely to attract attention.
The first company to sign on was 612 Brew, which is building a brewery and taproom in part of the nearly 60,000-square-foot building. Digital creative company Sevnthsin has also announced it will relocate to the space, and more tenants are in negotiations, including several high-tech firms, a coffee shop and a fitness facility.
The Broadway is being developed by First & First, the real estate company behind the Icehouse project on Nicollet Avenue, Aria in the former Jeune Lune theater space, and several other prominent developments.
The strength of First & First’s other projects have created a high bar for The Broadway, but what has been revealed about the project is already drawing praise.
During the groundbreaking ceremony for the project on Oct. 18, Mayor R.T. Rybak said: “This is a really, really great opportunity here with a developer who has proven that we can do great things in Minneapolis, but we should expect to do exceptional things. They have one of the greatest projects we’ve had in this city down on Nicollet Avenue, and they’re going to do a great one here.”
During the same ceremony, First & First’s president Peter Remes described his mission as finding creative reuses for historic properties. The Icehouse, for example, took advantage of that building’s two-story ceilings by convincing rock-climbing company Vertical Endeavors to open a facility in the space.
Some developers might see the 20-foot concrete wall outside the building’s windows as a major disadvantage. The Broadway embraces it by using the space as an outdoor amphitheater, complete with a rain garden and water fountain sculpted by hand by artist Zoran Mojsilov from stones reclaimed from the demolished Metropolitan Building.
Remes said he had his eye on the building years before he purchased it December 2011. Its location was a major draw, as was the old building itself and its sizable parking lot. Remes said he didn’t know exactly what he would do with the property when he purchased it, and he wasn’t envisioning a brewery in the space.
“I was a little bit uncertain about what that would mean, but I believe in 612 Brew, I believe in the craft brewery movement,” said Remes. “I think it’s very real, it’s here to stay. We’re on the cusp of a movement here and I think we’ll probably replicate what Portland or Denver have in terms of 80 or 90 craft breweries. I thought why not bring that into the traditional model of a building that would house offices spaces?”
For 612 Brew co-founder Robert Kasak, the building at 945 Broadway St. NE was always a good option. He said the company wanted to be in Northeast and were looking at the Frost Building just across the parking lot.
When the space in The Broadway came up for rent, 612 Brew was already in negotiations for a space in another building that Kasak described as functional but unimpressive. They met with Remes, who took them on a tour of the Icehouse and an earlier rehab project the Van Buren Building. After seeing what those finished projects looked like, 612 Brew signed on as The Broadway’s first tenant.
“You can’t walk through here and not go ‘this is an amazing building,’” said Kasak. “It’s unlike any other building we ever toured. We ultimately landed here because after the Surly bill [the taproom law] passed, we wanted to showcase the building. And this is a building we want to showcase.”
612 Brew’s space will be up and running in December, allowing the company to bring its beer to bars and restaurants around the city. The taproom will open in early 2013 when the rest of the project is further along. When complete, it will hold around 50 to 60 customers inside and more on the attached patio. The brewery will be located inside the building’s entryway, a two-story vertical glass gallery that will feature a rotating selection of work from local artists.
The artistic slant of the building is what convinced Jamey Erickson to move his firm Sevnthsin into the building. The agency is currently located in the Waterbury Building, directly across Central Avenue from The Broadway. The current space is serviceable, said Erickson. “But it’s not a space that has much of a community in it,” he said. “It would be nice to be in a space with more like-minded individuals.”
Erickson is a big believer in the project and thinks it will help spur positive development down Central Avenue. He pointed out how the Northeast Arts District developed from just a few studio buildings. “I’ve always been a big fan of these types of projects, taking something that’s old and maybe not great and turning it into something great,” he said. “There really wasn’t anything going on in this building, it was just here. And now it’s going to be this fun, vibrant building.”
The hope that The Broadway might spur more creative development in the area is one shared by Remes.
“We’re very excited about this project,” he said. “The creative reuse of this building I think will be a really fun and interesting tenant mix. Energy creates energy. It will be inspiring and interesting to see what happens hopefully from a success here. It might spawn other things going on.”