University of Minnesota Wants to Lease, Move 1887 Building

Posted on: January 28th, 2008 by Preservation magazine

Music Education Building, U of MOne of the five buildings that comprised the University of Minnesota's original campus in Minneapolis is up for lease, and the school is struggling to find the right tenant.

"We've been struggling to find a use for the building because it's a little small for the university's typical volume of operations," says James Litsheim, senior architect of capital planning for the university. "However, someone else could easily use it for office space, a coffee shop—just about any kind of use you can think of for a smaller space."

The National Register-listed Music Education Building was constructed in 1887. The 6,800-square-foot Richardsonian Romanesque structure, with a turret and a hand-carved ornamental façade, was formerly known as the SCA building because it was originally home to the Student Christian Association. Over the years, various university departments have occupied the building, including the music department, from 1947 to 1997. Since then, however, it has been unoccupied, and the university has spent about $350,000 to keep the building from falling further into disrepair, Litsheim says.

Now university officials are making another attempt to find a long-term tenant: The university is accepting online proposals to reuse the building. The deadline for such proposals is March 17, which officials may extend. Yet because it is a state-owned, National Register-listed building, any new tenant must abide by preservation guidelines when renovating the building, and university officials say that the building already needs an estimated $2 million in repairs. Some of the necessary renovations include repairing the roof, removing lead paint and asbestos, and making the structure handicapped-accessible.

If the university doesn't receive any feasible proposals, says Litsheim, it plans to work with the Minnesota State Historic Preservation office to determine a plan for the building, but ultimately it may be demolished.

"This building's story is typical of a lot of small buildings across the nation," Litsheim says. "If we tear it down with no thought, it could set a precedent for tearing down other small buildings, and we'd lose a lot of historic fabric nationwide."

- Krista Walton

For more information, visit http://www.cppm.umn.edu/purchasing/rfp.html.

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Preservation Magazine