Artspace withdraws its Grain Belt proposal

People who missed a recent presentation at East Side Neighborhood Services of proposals for the last developments in the Grain Belt Brewery campus got another chance on Thursday, March 8. Third Ward City Council member Steve Fletcher’s office put together an Open House at the FOOD Building that allowed local residents to talk to the developers in more depth.

Two of the developers who’ve submitted proposals for the City’s Request for Proposal for the remaining parcels in the area were present: Nordeast Development (a Lupe Development, Wall Companies and Ecumen partnership) and the Landon Group / Lander Group / Newport Partners. Members of both stood by their illustration boards and discussed their projects with guests.

Landon Group’s Becky Landon told one listener, “We have a vision of a vibrant housing and retail area; and we want to pay attention to the historical and environmental issues, as part of the public realm. We want to engage with the neighborhood about our shared values.”

At the Nordeast Development table, Maeve’s Coffee Shop owner Mary Cassidy spoke with Lupe Development’s Cameron Flakne. Cassidy said, “I understand the need for development and density, but I don’t want my customers pushed out the door. I wonder if there’s any thought to the future; and how do you keep the artists? How do you protect the people already here?”

To a question from another guest about “the Ramble,” a space between the existing Warehouse and Bottling House, Flakne said that while it is technically a right-of-way, and will be available for public events, it is analogous to the Downtown Commons, in that the property will be owned by the developers.

Notably absent from the evening’s presentation were representatives of Artspace, the third developer to present a proposal at the previous meeting. Artspace has owned and operated the Bottling House and Warehouse since 2004, and had proposed an expansion of studio space, new multi-family residential construction, and improvements to both of the existing buildings. Heidi Zimmer, Artspace’s Senior Vice President of Property Development, provided a statement on Monday, March 12:

“Artspace withdrew from the City RFP process as we have concluded that Artspace can more effectively accomplish our goals for the campus through collaboration with the selected master developer than we can through acting as master developer. This conclusion was reached after internal discussion regarding Artspace’s reflection on how to best serve the artist tenants of the Grain Belt campus and also one of our own capacity, as we are focused on the successful completion of Northside Artspace Lofts, a Minneapolis project in the Harrison neighborhood poised to start construction later this year. We welcome the opportunity for continued engagement and collaboration with city leaders and developers for the Grain Belt RFP.”

Fletcher said he felt that the Open House “was a really constructive event. People brought up issues the developers hadn’t addressed, and the access to the process of the development was greatly increased.”

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