Pillsbury A Mill now one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Categories: Business
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The Pillsbury A Mill today.
Some people look at the Pillsbury A Mill building across the Mississippi from downtown Minneapolis and see a run-down heap of brick and stone. Developers look at it and see a cash cow.

But the National Register of Historic Places looks at it sees one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places -- an important slab of architecture worth preserving from "piecemeal development."

The designation is designed to give developers -- and communities -- second thoughts about firing up a jackhammer or a bulldozer, or to prod communities into saving historic landmarks. This year's list included the Long Island home of the late jazz master John Coltrane, and Belmead-on-the-James, a 2,000-acre former plantation built by slaves sited on Virginia's James River.

Here's why: When Charles Alfred Pillsbury built the mill in 1881, it was the largest of its kind in the world -- its vibrating machinery rattled it so strongly that walls at the top of the structure now bow out almost 2 feet compared to the base. A "masterpiece of industrial architecture," it's been a National Historic Landmark since the '60s.

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The mill as it appeared in the late 1800s. It was the largest of its kind.
The mill hasn't run since 2003. Shafer Richardson bought the building in 2006 with an eye on turning it into a 1,000-unit strong condo complex, but the plan fell through.
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The mill site as envisioned by developers.
Bloomington-based Doran Cos., and Dominium of Plymouth are now trying to buy the 8-acre site. Doran plans new condo buildings on the non-historic parts of the site. Dominium's Owen Metz tells us his company "does not intend to do any condos in any of the historic Pillsbury buildings. We are planning affordable live-work artist housing. He also says the designation brings needed publicity to the redevelopment efforts.
"But overall it does not change the financial feasibility of the development. We are still planning the same financing structure utilizing low-income housing tax-credits, Federal historic tax credits, State historic tax credits and tax-exempt bonds. The largest difficulty will be coupling historic renovation standards (Minnesota Historical Society and National Park Service) with what visions remain from the previous redevelopment efforts.

Here's a National Trust for Historic Preservation photo tour of the site.

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