A new vision for the former MPS headquarters

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December 17, 2012 // UPDATED 3:24 pm - December 29, 2012
By: Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

LOGAN PARK — The future of the former Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) headquarters at 807 Broadway St. will begin to come into focus starting Dec. 17, when the site is officially put up for sale.

Originally the 186,000 square-foot building — square footage grows to over 250,000 counting three auxiliary buildings — cranked out 20,000 light bulbs per day as Minnesota Mazda Lamp Works, a subdivision of General Electric. It was purchased by MPS in 1930, and moved into in 1948.

MPS moved to a brand-new headquarters two miles down the road in August, and neighbors are anxious to see what becomes of the newly-vacant building. The Logan Park Neighborhood Association formed the 807 Broadway Task Force to ensure neighborhood residents had a voice in finding a developer for the site.

“We’re just the people who live in the neighborhood, who have, we feel, the most vested interest in the outcome because it’s literally in many people’s backyards,” said Pat Vogel, co-chair of the 807 Broadway Task Force.

The task force is strongly opposed to both high-density housing and big-box retail being developed at the site. 

“Our fear all along is that there is a developer waiting in the wings that they’re not being open about. … We don’t want somebody to come in, tear down the building and put in a Wal-Mart,” said Vogel.

That’s not the case, according to Mark Garner, senior project coordinator for the City of Minneapolis.

“We want people who are proposing on the property to be aware of the community vision for this property,” said Garner. “We want a transparent, broad process. We’re reaching out to as many potential developers as possible.”

A unique, hierarchical partnership has been forged to find a suitor for the 807 Broadway building. The 807 Broadway Task Force meets periodically with Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) to air their concerns and preferences. CPED has been contracted by MPS to market the property, field offers, and weed out developers that are not a good fit. 

Purchase offers will be accepted until Feb. 22, then CPED will present its short-list of candidates to the MPS Board of Education, which will ultimately decide on a developer. 

“I’m treating this as a neighbor, as well school board representative,” said Jenny Arneson, vice chair of the MPS Board of Education. “I hope that we get somebody that serves the neighborhood well, and I hope that it comes at a price that School District can manage.”

The 807 Broadway site has flexible zoning requirements, which diversifies its appeal. It could be developed as light industrial, office, or residential mixed-use, which is part of the reason CPED has not listed an asking price.

Vogel mentioned a community center, a full service medical clinic and a small business incubator as possibilities for the property. At a recent Audubon Park neighborhood meeting City Council Member Kevin Reich pointed out successful multi-tenant, adaptive reuse projects like the California, Casket Arts, and Waterbury buildings as recent models of successful redevelopment in northeast Minneapolis.