Under Project for Pride in Living’s control, the Bunge tower has largely sat unused for the past decade, but now the non-profit housing developer is looking to demolish much of the 80-year-old grain elevator complex.
While PPL hopes to retain much of the iconic tower, the developer is considering demolishing much of the grain elevator and building artist housing on top of the foundation and within an adjacent 1935 headhouse building.
The last plan to reuse the tower site came in 2006 when a partner of PPL looked to build condos, but after the partner backed out of the project, PPL has since succeeded in developing three-story and four-story apartment buildings near the site. Chris Wilson, PPL’s senior director of real estate development, said they’ve been trying to sell the remaining buildings for the past few years.
“I think we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve given up on anyone else doing it so we’re just going to go ahead ourselves,” he said.
PPL’s preliminary plans call for demolishing 90 feet of the 115-foot-tall Bunge grain elevator and building a five-story addition on the remaining foundation. The developer would also convert the adjacent headhouse building into lobby and studio spaces, and build a new low-rise building. Current concepts show a new three-story building, but Wilson said they’re now considering five stories.
Concepts before the Heritage Preservation Commission show 93 units of housing. PPL is planning for a majority of the units to be affordable artist housing, while another portion, which is shown to be family student housing in concepts, might end up as market-rate rental or another affordable component, Wilson said.
The plans also call for 119 parking stalls split between an underground parking level and 10 surface spaces.
Mary Novak, a senior project manager with PPL, said keeping a portion of the Bunge elevator would add a “uniqueness factor” to the project similar to the A-Mill Artist Lofts nearby.
Minneapolis-based UrbanWorks Architecture is handling the project’s design. The firm also designed PPL’s earlier development proposal.
PPL argues in its application that the demolition is necessary given the recent history of vandalism and security issues with the grain elevator and the headhouse. Since 2005, two people have died falling in the tower.
“Since it seems unlikely a buyer will emerge, PPL is applying for a demolition permit in order to allow for a reuse of the site which will increase the assessed value of the property; improve community safety, appeal and neighborhood stability,” the developer wrote in its application.
If the HPC approves the demolition application, PPL will finalize its plan for the site. The developer has a preliminary meeting with the HPC on March 8. The project’s first public hearing before the HPC is slated for March 22.
Wilson said they would then plan to meet with neighborhood groups within the next few months.