Reinventing Old Schools: Buzza Lofts of Uptown [VIDEO]
MINNEAPOLIS -- The future of the St. Cloud Technical High School building is still up in the air, but this week WJON news is giving you a look at couple other old school buildings in the state that have been transformed into something new.
Today we travel down to Uptown Minneapolis where a building formerly owned by the Minneapolis School District is now home to 136 residents.
"Buzza Lofts of Uptown" was originally built in 1907. It was purchased by the school district in 1972. Real Estate developer Dominium bought it in 2012 and converted it into 136 affordable housing units.
In 1923 Buzza Greeting Card Company moved into the building but closed their facility in 1942. It was acquired by the U.S. Government and used as a military recruiting station. Then, in 1972 the Minneapolis Public School District bought the building and used it for office space, storage, and adult education center until 2010.
Claire VanderEyk is a Tech graduate in 2005, and a Development Associate for Dominium. She says retrofitting old buildings is a growing trend as people move back closer to downtowns.
One of the ways that we can make our downtowns and main streets interesting is by blending both the historic buildings with new construction and creating some interesting dynamics between the two. And in order to do that often times the original use of the building doesn't make sense anymore.
VanderEyk says one of the challenges of remodeling an old building is that if you use historic tax credits, that requires the approval of the State Historic Preservation Office, which makes a recommendation to the National Park Service. She says it's not so much laws, but more guidelines on how the building can be changed.
She says there are some hurdles to overcome when you take classrooms and turn them into living spaces.
I think the biggest challenge is you're coming into a building that's already built, you're living within the structure the way it is. Especially if you're using historic tax credits, there's oversight on top of that for what we can do with the building.
VanderEyk says it can be difficult to put these types of projects together, but private developers like Dominium are much better equipped to do it than school districts are.
She says she can see the appeal of potentially transforming the 1917 building into housing.
I think that downtown St. Cloud is incredibly walkable, right adjacent to the school, it has a lot of opportunities for people to get around and enjoy themselves, lots of different retail and restaurant options. And that's similar on a block-by-block basis to what we have here in Uptown.
VanderEyk says historic preservation is important because it engages both longtime residents who have a connection to the building, as well newer residents who can see a building's potential in the future.
VanderEyk says renovating old buildings - like Tech - provide a lot of benefits to a community.
In actuality these projects per capita can end up being less expensive, they generate more jobs, they have a tendency to bring more people to the area, to be more photogenic, and more intriguing pedestrian wise.
She says her company tries to renovate at least one old building into affordable housing units each year. And, she says a lot of developers are doing these types of projects
The current St. Cloud Technical High School has one more year as a school before the students move to the new Tech, which is under construction right now. Tech's first building was built in 1917.
Tuesday we'll take a drive up to Brainerd and check out the Franklin Arts Center in the former junior high school.