A four-story building that has been home to a greeting card company, a military recruiting station and an adult education center is now poised for a new life as an apartment complex if it can win designation as a National Registered Landmark.
The Buzza Historic Lofts project (PDF), at 1006 W. Lake St. in Uptown, took a major step forward Friday, when the Minneapolis City Council approved $28 million in tax-exempt multi-family housing revenue bonds. The developer is also seeking $9.7 million in historic tax credit equity and has applied for historic designation by the National Park Service.
The developer, Dominium Development & Acquisition, plans to convert the vacant building into 137 rental units, most of which would be one-bedroom apartments with in-unit laundry facilities and full kitchens.
Rents would range from $835 to $1,048 a month. The building is currently owned by Minneapolis Public Schools.
“I’m thrilled they are saving the building,” says 10th Ward City Council Member Meg Tuthill, who points out that the urban neighborhood offers a mix of local businesses, recreation opportunities and public transportation. She also likes the proposed 133 off-street parking places that are part of the plan.
But Tuthill worries that “we are zoning ourselves out of manufacturing and business locations” that create jobs while rushing to meet the growing demand for rental housing.
Designation as a historic property has been recommended by the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission. A decision by the Park Service is expected in November.
The final step in the financing will hinge on the historic merits of the 1907 building, which originally housed the Buzza Greeting Card Co. and, later, a military recruiting center nicknamed “Fort Buzza.”
The greeting card company created hand-tinted cards, decorative mottos and bridge tallies with a large staff of artists, interestingly most of them women. Workers were promised “up-to-date working conditions and employee benefits,” according to the Fall 1992 issue of Minnesota History magazine (PDF).
Florence Nelson Kennedy, for example, was 21 when she went to work at Buzza in 1923, according to the article in Minnesota History.
At the time, the job description called for an artist “able to distinguish colors, deftness and accuracy in applying them … and speed.” The women were paid based on how many pieces they completed.
To maximize her pay, Kennedy learned to spread out the cards and paint with two brushes at the same time.