A Tale of Two Cities: Making Room for the New and Rebuilding the Old

New and Old Construction in Historic City Districts It’s no joke: Uptown’s iconic Comic Book College has been displaced by plans for new Minneapolis residential development. It seems the appetite for new apartments and condos will not be satiated anytime soon. And it’s happening all over town: The old is making way for the new. 

Meanwhile in St. Paul, a new craft brewery is slated to open this September in a pre-Civil War saloon in the historic West Seventh neighborhood. The new is revitalizing and building on the past. And it seems to be happening all over town! Is the character of the not-so-identical Twin Cities so different? New commercial development is booming in both.

Actually, both Minneapolis and St. Paul show great respect for their historic neighborhoods and for their old downtowns, even though they may demonstrate their love in different ways.

New Housing a Minneapolis Priority

Comic Book College is said to be the oldest comic shop in the state, but it will soon move to larger quarters in a strip mall along Nicollet Ave., according to owner Tim Lohr. Even though Lohr acquired the business only in 2003, he notes that it has occupied the same Uptown location since 1974. It is just one of several vintage storefronts that will give way to a new three-story mixed-use building planned by Lander Development.

There is no word yet about new business tenants for the planned building, but an architectural rendering shows a solid-looking brick structure that should blend nicely with existing buildings along Hennepin in the neighborhood of 32nd Street. It will feature 26 apartments on its upper floors, according to company spokesman Michael Pink, that will be offered with “pricing options” designed to appeal to a variety of tenants. Planning commission review is set to begin in early May, with construction slated to begin in the fall.

Reuse and Restoration Highlight St. Paul News

Meanwhile, in the capital next door, city officials are hopeful that a proposal will be forthcoming to offer creative new uses for a former police training facility near the river, and the word is that redevelopment that focuses on new housing is unacceptable at this time. The preference is for a jobs-focused, business-oriented reuse of the building and grounds, with an emphasis on open space and public parkland.

In other development news, the oldest commercial building in the city will be reincarnated as a craft brewery and “wurstery,” serving “house-made sausages” and German lagers. Formerly a pre-Civil War saloon operated by a German immigrant, it is scheduled to open in September as Waldmann, in honor of that early saloon-keeper. It operated only from 1857 until its unexpected closing in 1863.

New owner Tom Schroeder has taken pains to preserve the architecture and character of the building, which will accommodate about 60 patrons in four separate rooms on the two floors, with bars both upstairs and down. A newly-constructed brew barn was built just behind the historic building. The new establishment will feature authentic 1800s furniture, real wood stoves, and lamplight, allowing drinkers and diners to experience the culture of the past.

Schroeder, who bought the property in 2008 in order to save it from demolition, said that the process of zoning, restoration and gaining historic designation, along with necessary new construction, has pushed costs past the $2 million mark. 

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