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Former Uptown card company HQ could get new life as Buzza Historic Lofts

The building that once housed the Buzza Greeting Card Co. is up for designation as a historic property.
The building that once housed the Buzza Greeting Card Co. is up for designation as a historic property.

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.

The Buzza building, at 1006 W. Lake St. in Uptown, as it looks today.
MinnPost photo by Karen Boros
The Buzza building, at 1006 W. Lake St. in Uptown, as it looks today.

“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.

Florence Nelson Kennedy
Florence Nelson Kennedy

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.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by William Levin on 10/24/2011 - 12:43 pm.

    A win for everyone…a great location, a low-rise building with nice architectural details, repurposed by a seasoned local developer into units aimed at the market but not at luxury renters. Best news I’ve heard all day.

  2. Submitted by David Greene on 10/24/2011 - 03:29 pm.

    This is indeed good news. There’s a lot of building going on in the area and I wonder if, like the Flux project seems to demand, this developer isn’t aiming for a condo conversion down the road. There’s going to be a glut of apartments in the area very soon. Though I suppose it’s harder to sell one-bedroom condos.

    In any case, I hope that they are careful in their interior renovation to make something that pays tribute to the building rather than simply exposing some brick and timber and calling it a day.

  3. Submitted by Thatcher Imboden on 10/24/2011 - 10:14 pm.

    The building was first built for a self threading needle company and was later expanded by Buzza. Buzza is an internationally known card company. Inside the building is almost all concrete, so no brick or timber David. I also doubt it could be converted to condos if it is getting city money for affordable housing. Glad the building is being reused but agree with Tuthill that the loss of commercial/industrial space is disappointing.

  4. Submitted by Neal Gendler on 10/24/2011 - 10:17 pm.

    I’ll be happy if the building — at least the exterior — is preserved. Buzza is one of those buildings that provide Minneapolis residents with a strong, even comforting, sense of place, especially because it’s tall enough to be seen quite a few blocks away.

    The building was more than a military recruiting outpost. I’m told that the government took over the building during World War 2 (I don’t know why, but that wasn’t unusual). During the Vietnam years, it housed a fairly substantial Army operation. It was where I was sent in 1968 to do the paperwork for my household goods to be shipped to my first USAF duty station, and I recall the place as swarming with people in short-sleeved khaki uniforms.

    Seeing a reasonably functional, distinct old building (even one that’s not exactly an architectural treasure) preserved is a welcome change from the days when a developer’s first impulse was the wrecking ball (or as one wrecking company put it on its hardware: “A sure sign of progess.”)

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