Voice Your Support for Preservation!

Historic Grain Elevator Complexes in Minneapolis Threatened with Demolition

PAM members Eric Amel and Gayla Lindt, along with many fellow residents of the Prospect Park neighborhood in Minneapolis and the greater architecture and design community, oppose the University of Minnesota’s plans to demolish two significant grain elevator complexes located just northeast of TCF Bank stadium near the University’s East Bank campus.

One of the complexes, known as the Electric Steel Elevator, includes 32 riveted steel grain silos constructed between 1901 and 1914, making it an extremely rare example of its kind. The U also proposes to acquire and demolish the neighboring Mathisen Elevator property, which includes massive historic concrete elevators. The Electric Steel Elevator in particular is individually eligible for the National Register and was under interim protection by the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission before the university bought it with the intention to demolish it. The U claims that adaptive reuse is not feasible and doesn’t fit its plans – and wants to build a sports and recreation bubble on the site after the elevators are removed.

Photographer Chris Faust has captured images of the Electric Steel Elevator for over thirty years. He considers it one of the city's "visual icons." Photo courtesy of Chris Faust.
Photographer Chris Faust has captured images of the Electric Steel Elevator for over thirty years. He considers it one of the city’s “visual icons.” Photo courtesy of Chris Faust.

PAM supports the local advocacy efforts and thinks the U should change its plans in regards to these unique historic resources. The Board of Regents needs to hear objections from a broader community of concerned citizens. Please weigh in on this decision — a brief comment (even a subject-line-only objection) is better than no comment at all. It is invaluable for the University’s decision makers to hear the voices of people who share a vision for the future of this area that honors its historic resources and unique sense of place.

There are alternatives to demolition! Some of our region’s best design thinkers are putting their energies behind finding another suitable location for the sports bubble, somewhere where it won’t result in the irreversible demolition of a historic asset. Preserving the elevators will allow the U to demonstrate that it is truly a leader in research and development, not only in the sciences but also in urban planning and design. These unique historic structures can be available for another purpose that supports emerging industries – whether that be local food production, grain storage (like hops and barley – key ingredients in Minnesota’s booming craft beer industry), data storage, or something else altogether.

How you can help:

Comment by contacting the University’s Capital Planning & Project Management department at cppm@umn.edu by Friday, September 23 and by writing a letter to the Board of Regents, who will vote on this proposal at their October 13 meeting. (Click here for a list of Regents and their contact info.)

For more information, see these recent articles in MinnPost and City Pages, and the Minneapolis HPC report from July 2015.