Dominium was named a winner of the Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits 2016 Rehabilitation Awards, which will be presented at the Novogradac 2016 Historic Tax Credit Conference in Cleveland. The Historic Rehabilitation Awards were awarded to development teams for developing outstanding properties using the historic tax credit (HTC).
Dominium will be recognized in the Overcoming Obstacles category for its development of A-Mill Artist Lofts in Minneapolis.
About A-Mill Artist Lofts
The Pillsbury A-Mill in Minneapolis was the largest flourmill in the world when it opened in 1881. It held on to this designation for four decades and continued as a working flour facility for Pillsbury until 2003 when a private developer of luxury condominiums purchased it. This scheme never came to fruition, but the development firm Dominium saw the value in the property as a canvas for affordable artist lofts and, given the Minnesota state historic rehabilitation tax credit has been passed in that year, bought the complex in 2010. In addition to the building be listed as a National Historic Landmark, the location of the A-Mill in the historic St. Anthony Main district across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis made the project desirable to Dominium. It was this mill that was integral in the development and prosperity of the area.
The A-Mill Artist Lofts offers those committed to a life in the arts a place to live and work. Careful rehabilitation of the mill buildings included loft apartments and shared work and studio spaces that use features of the historic building to create unique spaces for tenants. In addition, many auxiliary buildings have been converted to house amenities for the community. Historic artifacts have also found their way into the design, like belts, gears and flour bins that have reappeared as décor.
Many important industrial features were retained and showcased in the rehabilitation of this National Historic Landmark, designed by BKV Group. One such feature is the retention of select Humphrey manlifts. The first of these vertical worker conveyors to ever be built was in the Pillsbury A-Mill in 1887. The rehabilitation design includes the retention of a manlift in A Mill North from basement to the first floor and the South Mill from the basement to the second floor. On levels 2 through 6, a portion of the lift and shroud remains in place and is secured to keep a sense of the lift’s vertical access.
In addition, the Red Tile Building that served as the grain elevator for the mill had never had window casings in the first eight floors. To make the building functional while retaining the historic fabric, units were built in the Head House (levels 8 through 12) where there were windows.
One of the more challenging aspects of the rehabilitation was the hydropower system beneath the mill complex. This historic design feature used a tunnel system to harness energy from the flowing Mississippi River to power the plant. The original gates and two turbine pits remain on the site, and Dominium has accepted the challenge of once again using these features as a hydrothermal system that will assist in heating and cooling the property. It has also required close consultation and approvals from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reuse existing infrastructure like the belowground tunnels.
In addition to this unique reuse of hydropower, a storm-water management that will recycle 100 percent of rainwater and LED lighting solutions – including the lighting of the historic “Pillsbury’s Best Flour” sign – have resulted in a LEED certification for the project.
The unique challenges presented by the hydropower systems and a commitment to sustainability pushed the total project cost to nearly $170 million. Dominium has credited both the federal and state historic tax credit programs with making the rehabilitation financially feasible, with both programs contributing $63 million in funding. In fact, had it not been for Minnesota reviving its state historic rehabilitation tax credit program in 2010 Dominium would likely not have taken on the project at all.
The A-Mill Artist Lofts are now open and fully rented. It is a project that is garnering national and international attention alike as a successful example of historic rehabilitation, adaptive reuse, and sustainable design. The solutions that Dominium strived to find in its commitment to transform the historic mill, from financing to hydropower, while maintaining its historic character will certainly have an impact on similar projects in the future.