Community notebook // Planning Commission approves A Mill Artist Lofts

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May 7, 2012 // UPDATED 11:03 am - May 7, 2012
By: Jeremy Zoss, Michelle Bruch & Sarah McKenzie
Jeremy Zoss, Michelle Bruch & Sarah McKenzie

EAST BANK — A plan for 255 apartments geared toward artists in the historic Pillsbury A Mill secured approvals from the Minneapolis City Planning Commission on April 23.

Plymouth-based Dominium Development is behind the development proposal called the A Mill Artist Lofts. The A Mill complex, which was listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of 11 most endangered historic places in the country last year, has been vacant since 2003.

Owen Metz, senior development associate for Dominimium Development, said he’s pleased by the commission’s decision.

“Every item was passed unanimously and has helped build some positive momentum on our planned redevelopment of the A Mill in to live-work artist apartments,” he said. “The Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association continues to be a strong advocate of the redevelopment and has provided public support at each of our recent public hearings.”

The development would include a mix of apartments — studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom units. They would be in the A Mill complex and Warehouse No. 2. 

The apartments will be reserved for tenants at 60 percent of the area media income — roughly $40,000.

The developer is seeking $2.9 million in tax-increment financing (TIF) and $75 million in tax exempt Multi-family Entitlement Revenue bonds from the city for the $113.5 million project. 

Issuing the bonds would not make the city financially liable if the developer failed to make payments on the debt, said Dollie Crowther, principal coordinator with the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development department (CPED). 

In addition to city financing, Dominium is tapping state and federal tax credits for the project.

The City Council’s Community Development Committee voted May 1 to postpone a vote on preliminary approval of the $75 million in revenue bonds. The committee instructed city staff to come back in two council cycles and present information on the TIF request as well.

While Marcy-Holmes neighbors have been receptive to the development plan, some neighbors living in Phoenix on the River, an upscale condo development next to the A Mill, have been critical of the proposal and have lobbied city officials to oppose the project. 

Dominium is also working on rehabbing the Schmidt Brewery in St. Paul and building 261 affordable apartments for artists on the site.

The Planning Commission also approved another downtown-area development April 23 — Velo Flats, a mixed-used development proposed by Opus Development in the North Loop. The plan calls for 106 apartments at 103 2nd St. N., which is now home to Merit Printing. 

Developer eyeing Superior Plating site

for housing 

1ST AVENUE NE — A potential buyer of the Superior Plating site at 315 1st Ave. NE is trying to secure money to clean up the polluted land in order to build rental housing.

City staff are not recommending the project for a $2 million grant, however, because the development concept is still rough and the developer doesn’t yet own the site. 

The developer is City Center Realty Partners, a San Francisco-based firm that owns the Warehouse District building at 800 Washington Ave. N. home to Bar La Grassa. The developer wants to replace Superior Plating with 600 units of rental housing. The developer offered up three preliminary six- to eight-story designs at a neighborhood meeting in March, but the ideas were met with some skepticism.

“Everybody reacted negatively to the general concept,” said Victor Grambsch, chair of the Nicollet Island/East Bank Neighborhood Association. 

Meeting notes said residents worried the proposed design would create a massive, looming presence with a “Cabrini Green style” and an “abrupt street wall.” Neighbors also requested new commercial space, something the project did not contain. 

“They will have to rethink the whole idea,” Grambsch said. “The ball’s really in their court.”

City Center Realty Partners declined to comment on the status of their plans.

Billboards become interactive public art

WAREHOUSE DISTRICT — The digital billboards at the intersection of 7th and Hennepin will be put to an innovative use over the next month: facilitating a conversation about what Minneapolis residents want in the city. The billboards will occasionally display a message asking for ideas, with a number to which people can text their responses. 

Responses can be voted on via the project’s website, and the most popular responses will be in turn displayed on the electronic billboards.

The project is a combined effort between nonprofit organization Forecast Public Art, Clear Channel Outdoor and artist Candy Chang. Dedicated to strengthening and advancing public art, Forecast Public Art began discussing public art applications with Clear Channel about two years ago. When the Plan-It Hennepin initiative asked Forecast Public Art to identify an artist focused on public art for the initiative, executive director Jack Becker suggested Candy Chang, whose “Neighborland” project encourages residents to share their hopes for their city through public art. 

Minneapolis marks the first use of digital billboards as part of “Neighborland.” The project launched on Thursday, April 26 to coincide with Chang’s lecture in Plan-It Hennepin’s Talk-It Hennepin series.

Forecast Public Art’s Becker thinks “Neighborland” will be popular with Minneapolis residents and says the feedback from the public could easily lead to positive change. He uses the idea of food trucks on Hennepin Avenue as an example. If the public makes it clear that they want food trucks on Hennepin, the city might find away to change regulations to allow it.

“This could actually make things happen,” said Becker. “It’s not just about what people wish will happen, it could actually lead to action.”

To add ideas to the project or to vote on your favorites, visit neighborland.com. 

Outdoor music festivals reveal lineups, tickets go on sale

With the return of warm weather comes the return of outdoor music festivals. Multiple local music festivals have revealed artist lineups and ticket information, including Rock the Garden, the Basilica Block Party and the Stone Arch Bridge Festival.

Rock the Garden, the joint production of 89.3 The Current and the Walker Art Center, will be held on June 16 at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. This year’s show features a heavy emphasis on local music, with local acts Howler, Doomtree and Trampled by Turtles joining headliners The Hold Steady, the Brooklyn-based rock band born from the ashes of Minneapolis band Lifter Puller. Only one band, Tune-Yards, has no Minnesota connection. 

Rock The Garden sold out in less than a day, but a few pairs of tickets will still be given away via The Current.

The Basilica Block Party returns for its 18th year on July 6-7 at the Basilica of Saint Mary with headliners Train, The Avett Brothers, Cake and O.A.R. The festival also includes several local bands, including Phantom Tails, Lucy Michelle & The Velvet Lapelles, Prissy Clerks, A. Wolf & Her Claws and others. 

Tickets for the Basilica Block Party are on sale now through Ticketmaster, Barrio and Basilicablockparty.org. Single-day passes start at $40 and two-day passes begin at $70. 

From June 15–17, the free Stone Arch Bridge Festival will be held along the downtown riverfront and feature dozens of bands and over 250 artists. The festival was taken over by Matt Mithun after its founder Ira Heilicher passed away last year. Mithun is also staging the second year of the SoundTown music festival, which debuted last year at the Somerset Amphitheater in Somerset, Wisconsin.

The inaugural SoundTown festival featured a heavy emphasis on Minneapolis musicians. This year’s festival, to be held July 27–28, focuses more on national acts such as Jane’s Addiction, Florence + The Machine, Weezer and more. Local bands like Doomtree, 4onthefloor and Pert’ Near Sandstone will also perform on the bill. Tickets are available now at First Avenue or 

Soundtownfest.com.

Art 4 Shelter raises money for Simpson Housing Services

HENNEPIN — A fundraiser on May 9 will raise money to battle homelessness and could send you home with an affordable piece of art by a big-name artist. The second annual Art 4 Shelter fundraiser will feature over 1,000 pieces of original art, all priced at $30. However, all pieces are signed only on the back and the sale includes both emerging artists and established names like Alec Soth.

Art 4 Shelter will be held Wednesday, May 9 at the Burnet Gallery, 901 Hennepin Ave. A preview session begins at 5 p.m. The art sale runs from 7-9 p.m. All proceeds benefit Simpson Housing Services.

“Every day at Simpson Housing Services, we are witness to how stable housing and support transform the lives of men, women, and children experiencing homelessness,” said Simpson program director Wendy Wiegmann in a statement. “Art 4 Shelter is a powerful event, bringing original works of art and a strong community together to build hope for a world where everyone has a safe place to call home.”

Organizations partner for new 

anti-bullying mural

LORING PARK — Savitt Paint at 1515 Nicollet Ave. has a new mural on its exterior wall, and the story behind it is as beautiful as the art itself. The mural is the result of a collaboration between nonprofit organization Youth Art + Media Works, Emerson Spanish Immersion School and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) and tells an anti-bullying story that Emerson’s elementary school students created themselves.

The project was initiated by Beth Pacunas, whose Youth Art + Media Works focuses on tweens and issues of empowerment, bullying, gang violence and the like. As most of the organization’s work was in classrooms in schools like Emerson, Pacunas was interested in a more public project. She connected with Elissa Cedarleaf Dahl, who teaches at both Emerson and MCAD. Students from Dahl’s Art in Community class mentored students from Emerson to develop the look, content and message of the anti-bullying mural. Paints and wall space were donated to the project by Savitt Paint. 

The Emerson students decided on a message of “Love the bully” and tells the story of a bullied deer who gets help from a bear, learns self-confidence and grows strong enough to embrace the dragon that was tormenting him. The story developed out of workshops between the young students and their mentors, which Dahl said were beneficial to both sides.

“A lot of these kids are very fond of their MCAD mentor,” said Dahl. “For the MCAD students, it’s been a chance to see how art can connect with people and make a difference in the community.”

For photos of the process or more information, visit yaamworks.com. 

Petition for new lighting fails 

ST. ANTHONY EAST — The St. Anthony East Neighborhood Association hoped to brighten Madison and Spring streets with new streetlights, but a petition to make it happen has failed. 

At least 70 percent of area residents needed to support the idea, which was estimated to cost no more than $100 per residence per year. Petitions last winter yielded 27.6 percent voting “yes,” and 27.2 percent voting “no.”

“That’s a pretty clear signal that we’re moving on,” said Board President Jeremy Wieland.

The neighborhood board wanted to chip in $30,000 to draw down the cost of installing 22 safety lights along Madison Street from 3rd Avenue to Broadway Street Northeast, and on Spring Street from Madison to Jefferson Street Northeast. Board members pointed to studies showing that lights in other Minneapolis neighborhoods were directly correlated to a decrease in crime.

Party at City Hall raises money for a good cause

CITY HALL — Minneapolis City Hall will serve as the setting for a June 9 black tie fundraiser to support people with disabilities.

The event, hosted by L.A. Nik, will feature a silent auction, music and a fashion show and run from 7 p.m. to midnight at City Hall.

Proceeds from the event will go to support the Courage Center, a local resource center for people with disabilities.For tickets and more information visit

tcmagic8.com. 

The Cedar Cultural Center’s Patio Music Series returns in June

CEDAR-RIVERSIDE — For the fourth year, the Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Ave. S., will hold a series of free outdoor performances on its patio. The series runs from the end of June through the beginning of August, and all events are free and all-ages. Doors for each event open at 5 p.m. and performances begin at 7 p.m. Prior to the performance, attendees are invited to participate in the “Invisible Arts Workshop” sponsored by Somali arts organization Ka Joong. 

The nonprofit group specializes in poetry, storytelling and interactive activities.

This year’s performer lineup includes Charlie Parr on June 21, banjo and body music performer Evie Ladin on June 28, bluegrass band Mandolin Orange on July 5 and rapper Guante on July 26. All performances also feature food from local street food vendors.  

Got a news tip? Email Jeremy Zoss at jzoss@mnpubs.com