Case Study — Dominium

The Schmidt Artist Lofts redevelopment project involved renovation of a historically significant former brewery complex into 260 affordable apartment and townhome units to provide much needed workforce housing in the West 7th neighborhood of St. Paul. With the completion of the project, Webster Street has been re-opened, the main brewery site has welcoming green spaces, seating areas, and water features which are inviting spots for the public and neighborhood residents.

As one of “Minnesota’s 10 most endangered historic places” noted by Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, the project provided an exciting opportunity to preserve the Schmidt Brewery, with its crenellated towers and Gothic details, and convert it into affordable artist live-work apartments. The adaptive reuse of the historic Schmidt Brewery into artist lofts continues the rich tradition of a 100 year old neighborhood landmark in the city of St. Paul, and preserves the Brew House and Bottling House as the centerpiece of the newly created Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company Historic District. Prior, the property was occupied by various brewery operations dating back to 1885, originally built as the Cave Brewery, the Schmidt Brewery had been home to the Stahlmann, North Star, Pfeiffer, Jacob Schmidt and Landmark brands with the last kegs rolling out in 2002.

The primary obstacles to residential redevelopment for this project were trying to fit apartments into a structure not meant for that purpose. To do so, the removal of 60 brewing tanks, needing to be demolished or cut out with torches to clear out space. Many areas lacked windows, so there were dozens of new interior/exterior window openings and skylights to be cut into the existing walls, some of which required significant structural shoring due to deterioration and other challenges created by multiple additions being added to the facility over the decades of operations within both the Brew House and Bottling House structures. The removal of more than 31,000 tons of soil contaminated by past land use activities, along with four 25,000 gallon out-of-service fuel oil storage tanks located in a subgrade vault beneath Oneida Street.  Another interesting aspect of the project, which was a requirement of the Historical Preservation Commission, was the removal and re-installation of the railroad tracks throughout the property, which required surveying the locations of the existing tracks, identifying every piece, carefully removing and then re-installing the tracks back to their original locations after site redevelopment was completed.

The A-Mill Artist Lofts project consisted of the renovation of the original A-Mill building as well as smaller structures that served different functions for Pillsbury’s milling operations.  ample, the Red Clay Tile Building includes 23 loft units that are being erected on the upper floors above the original red clay grain silos, now empty, which serve as the base of the building for the first seven stories.

The project involved several challenges.  Foremost was dealing with the issues of structures that were 100-plus years old, not to mention the fact that the property had sat vacant for more than a decade. The main A-Mill building was in rough shape, and machinery and tools were scattered everywhere, requiring dismantling and removal, a lot of items of which needed to be salvaged and store offsite due to historical significance, to later be repurposed into the buildings as display items.

In between the buildings and adjacent to 100’ silos, a multilevel parking structure was created for tenant parking and tying the buildings together in the basement levels. To do so, temporary earth retention walls some as high as 40’ were put in place and used as one sided forms for the new parking structure wall. The removal of more than 40,000 tons of contaminated soil, along with a below grade structure formally used as a train dump hopper for grain had to be removed to make way for the parking structure between the buildings.

“The project is a great example of historic adaptive use providing workforce housing units in an urban, high-rent, amenity-rich area along the Minneapolis historic riverfront,” says Andrea Brennan, housing policy and development director, Community Planning and Economic Development, for the city of Minneapolis.