Blame buildings for some Downtown de-industrialization

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June 28, 2004 // UPDATED 2:16 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

After a quarter century, Procolor will leave Hennepin Avenue building later this year

They make fancy posters, but Downtown's Procolor may soon be a poster child for industrial flight.

Don't blame politicians or new development for chasing all industrial jobs from Downtown. In this case, the culprit is an obsolete building.

President John Gorski said Procolor's four-level 909 Hennepin Ave. S. building no longer serves the high-end photo and digital-image-processor's needs. Procolor needs less space -- 15,000 to 19,000 square feet instead of its current 23,000-plus square feet -- and wants it all on one floor with easy access to a loading dock.

"The way our business has changed, trying to produce work on four individual floors is difficult at best," Gorski said. "Our opportunity for growth is really focused on the large format output. In the world of graphics, large is in."

Such large-scale graphics create any number of logistical nightmares in an old building, Gorski said.

It's a story that has played out over and over again Downtown. Old buildings have outlived their original use and are getting converted to new, often nonindustrial purposes such as housing.

Procolor has a buyer and expects to close by the end of June, Gorski said. The new owner asked him to keep future plans private.

The land is zoned BS4-2, a Downtown Service District. Permitted uses range from hotels, restaurants and theaters to bookstores, catering businesses, coffee shops, nightclubs and tattoo parlors.

Procolor opened Downtown in 1959 and has operated in its current location since 1979. Its customers include professional photographers, artists and museums needing high-end fine art scanning and reproduction, and businesses needing large-scale graphics.

Gorski said Procolor would like to stay Downtown, but it is has several good options, including non-Downtown sites. It will decide where it will move in the next month or two.

The company's bread-and-butter work used to be retouching business flyers or printing 8-by-10 enlargements, he said. The building's upper floors used to be littered with small darkrooms. They are rarely used anymore, Gorski said.

"In the digital world, you don't need those [8-by-10] prints," he said. "Small inkjet printers do a good job of replicating that image. People are playing in the small format realm in desktop printing."

Today, Procolor does larger point-of-purchase retail graphics for Marshall Field's or Target and posters for Famous Dave's, Buca di Beppo or the Target Center faade.

What does an old multistory building mean for production?

Getting finished product from the third floor to the first floor is problematic, Gorski said. The company commonly mounts displays on foam-core boards 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide -- or larger. The artwork barely fits into the elevator on the diagonal.

Procolor made one 20-foot-tall poster for Perkins & Wills, 84 S. 10th St. To get it downstairs, staff had to thread it through the narrow center hole in the stairwell, he said.

Procolor plans an extended move, spanning several months, to eliminate downtime, Gorski said. It has enough duplicate equipment that it could stay open for business throughout the move.