Comprehensive Facilities Plan: Wells Building Update

Wells Building Facade

Historic Wells Building: Part of Plan to Reallocate Campus Space

Minneapolis College has been updating its Comprehensive Facilities Plan. This five-year plan includes annual projects that are being integrated into Minneapolis College's Strategic Priorities. The planning process revealed several priorities being pursued based on funding and partnerships with stakeholders.

One such priority is to determine a practical reuse of the historic Alden H. Smith House, also known as the Wells Building. Committed to preserving this historic asset while maintaining fiscal responsibility, Minneapolis College staff has taken several steps to explore opportunities including:

  • Reviewing all options allowed by State statute
  • Conducting an extensive feasibility study
  • Completing a comprehensive market analysis
  • Discussing avenues for economic development with City of Minneapolis officials

Current, estimated costs to structurally stabilize and renovate this building to meet code standards would be roughly $7 million. Therefore, it has been determined that the only financially viable option for Minneapolis College to foster the revitalization of this historic structure is to package it with the two adjacent parcels at 1400 Yale Place and 45 Spruce Place so it can be marketed to prospective developers. Combining the parcels with the building creates the incentive required for development. By declaring these parcels as surplus and passing them on to a developer through the City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis College and the State of Minnesota will avoid the significant costs of the continued maintenance of this building and the even greater cost to renovate it. Minneapolis College will reallocate the current funds being spent on ongoing maintenance for this building to other capital projects identified in the Comprehensive Facilities Plan allowing other spaces around campus, already more suitable and affordable for academic programming, to be better utilized to serve students.

To facilitate this transaction, the Minnesota State Board of Trustees recently declared the Wells Building as surplus property and agreed to allow the City of Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development to facilitate a "pass-through" property sale of all three parcels to a single development entity. The development will include the rehabilitation of the Wells Building and creating a new use for the other two parcels.

Since 2014, 1400 Yale Place has been the temporary location of the Minneapolis College Urban Farm Collective student club's garden. The club is evaluating new locations for the garden. As the development project moves forward, Minneapolis College Facilities Division staff will remove and store the perennial plantings, fencing, planters, underground sprinkler system and shed over the coming weeks so the club may reuse them in their new location.

The demolition of the Black Box Theater, located on 45 Spruce Place, is another part of the preparations underway to advance the development of these parcels. Metropolitan State University's leadership was notified earlier this year that its theater program will need to vacate this space. Programming space for their productions and classes is being made available in the Theater F.1200 and room F.1400 in the Whitney Fine Arts Center and H.0800 in Helland Center. The former loading dock (Black Box Theater) will be separated from the Whitney Fine Arts Center and demolished.

Additional preparations will include Xcel Energy's relocation of electrical transformers. Also, an underground fuel tank for a generator must be emptied and relocated. These preparations will be completed this summer to minimize disruptions for fall semester classes, avoid working in winter conditions and minimize costs.

"We are excited about the opportunity to preserve this historic asset and ensure it remains a part of the neighborhood for the foreseeable future," said President Sharon Pierce. "We are committed to continued engagement with the campus and community stakeholders as we continue to consider facilities improvements on our campus."