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A-Mill Artist Lofts

Rising above the century-old cobblestones of Saint Anthony Main Street stands the historic Pillsbury A-Mill; an impressive reminder of Minneapolis’s origins and the landmark structure from which “Mill City,” and the surrounding metropolitan area of 3 million, would eventually spring forth. The A-Mill, built in 1880, produced flour until 2003, when operations were shut down.

In 2011, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the mill on its list of ‘11 Most Endangered Places.’ However, recent trends renewed interest in Minneapolis’ urban core and spurred new demand for affordable housing. This provided an opportunity to reuse the Pillsbury A-Mill in a way that supports Minneapolis and its burgeoning artistic culture. In 2013, the Pillsbury Mill was acquired by Dominium with a plan to revitalize the complex into 251 affordable artist apartments, now known as A-Mill Artist Lofts.

The mill had various structural issues including expansion, deterioration due to weather, and damage from the force of transferring power through direct-drive waterwheels. Constructed of Platteville limestone, it featured a distinctive bow of over 2 feet as a result of poor quality and engineering. The structural team added steel support columns along the inside wall to prevent future bowing. The limestone was affected by freeze-thaw action and had expanded over time. Several areas needed to be carefully replaced with cement masonry units and refaced with Lannon stone to meet federal and Minnesota historic requirements. More than half of the buildings parapets were damaged or had fallen off and had to be replaced to match the original stonework and prevent future decay.

In addition to the structural issues of A-Mill, the site had a myriad of environmental issues. In order to successfully redevelop the property into residential housing, key environmental issues/challenges had to be addressed, including: the presence of significant quantities of asbestos-containing materials and lead-based paint within the historic A-Mill Complex and Warehouse #2 structures, more than 41,000 tons of shallow fill soil contaminated by past land use activities, and various hazardous wastes/substances left by past occupants.

In order to address the environmental challenges and complete the project within the tight construction schedule, the environmental work and construction/renovation activities had to be seamlessly integrated. To accomplish this, the developer designated us as the environmental remediation contractor, which allowed all of the environmental work to be coordinated closely with Weis Builders, the general construction contractor. Each aspect of the environmental remediation was sequenced precisely within the overall construction schedule, requiring constant communication to ensure a smooth transition for each trade into each of the unique areas of the structures. In addition, contractors were used who could provide dual services (e.g. the project earthwork/demolition contractor also provided soil remediation services for the environmental aspects of the project), avoiding multiple contractors and potential delays, allowing the environmental remediation to be sequenced smoothly into the construction schedule.

The collaboration among various and different sources of funding came together to make this project possible. The revitalized building brings 251 new apartment units and over 400 new residents to the area who will utilize the local businesses in the community. In 2016, A-Mill Artist Lofts was nominated as a finalist for a Minnesota Brownfields ReScape Award.