Minnesota State Preservation Office Weblog

SHPO Out & About

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SHPO Presents at DEED Training Workshops

Posted byLeslie Coburn on 10 Jul 2013 | Tagged as: Review and Compliance, SHPO Out & About

State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) Staff–Mary Ann Heidemann, Kelly Gragg-Johnson, and Leslie Coburn–met face-to-face with grants administrators from Greater Minnesota who frequently send projects to SHPO for review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (1966).  The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) had invited SHPO environmental review staff to explain compliance with federal preservation law at training workshops held June 18-20, 2013, in Bemidji, Alexandria, and Mankato.  Workshop attendees administer grants funded by the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency and distributed by DEED through a program that targets areas within smaller communities for rehabilitation and economic development, called the Small Cities Development Program.  Consultation with SHPO about the impact program activities may have on historic properties, in compliance with the Preservation Act,  is just one of the many program requirements grants administrators must follow.  Coincidentally, while in the Bemidji area, manager Mary Ann Heidemann collected an award from the US Dept. of Agriculture’s Forest Service recognizing her participation, through Section 106 process, in planning for the sensitive rehabilitation of the Rabideau CCC Camp, a National Historic Landmark in Chippewa National Forest.

Oral History Tidbit: Downtown Minneapolis Redevelopment with George Kissinger, Part 1

Posted byLeslie Coburn on 07 Mar 2013 | Tagged as: Podcasts, SHPO Out & About

This photo was taken in 1973 as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's "Documerica" Project (1972-77) to document "subjects of environmental concern."

This photo of Block E in downtown Minneapolis was taken in 1973 as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's "Documerica" Project (1972-77) to document "subjects of environmental concern."

On a chilly January day, I convinced my former colleague, George Kissinger, to give me a tour of downtown Minneapolis redevelopment projects with which he was involved during his 30-year career as a project manager for the City.

In this first video clip, George describes the local government’s role in creating a large tax increment financing district to facilitate redevelopment of entire blocks which now contain City Center, Gaviidae Common, and the Block E complex.  Community pressure to rid downtown of the seedy influence of degraded properties, porn shops, and bars prompted city officials to get involved.

In 1988, at a community event to celebrate the impending demolition of Block E’s small-scale commercial buildings between 6th and 7th streets on Hennepin Avenue, the executive director of the Minneapolis Community Development Agency was quoted in the Star Tribune: “We’re now removing this blight to bring life and people back to Hennepin Avenue.”

Stay tuned for more of George’s recollections in future posts.

George Kissinger retired from the Minneapolis Community Development Agency in 2006, having worked on projects such as the acquisition and restoration of the State, Orpheum, and Pantages theaters, the Schubert Theatre move, the Ivy Tower rehab, and the new Federal Reserve Bank.  He is a Viet Nam vet and retired Captain from the Naval Reserve.  More recently, George has served as captain of the restored Steamboat Minnehaha on Lake Minnetonka.

History Matters Day at the Capitol

Posted byLeslie Coburn on 19 Feb 2013 | Tagged as: SHPO Out & About



Bugle wails and drum beats echoed through the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda as historical organizations celebrated History Matters Day on Monday, Feb. 18.  Several Minnesota Historical Society departments were represented, including Membership, Publications, The Oliver Kelly Farm, and our own Historic Preservation, Field Services, and Grants Department.  Despite the gray weather, a number of schoolchildren and parents showed up to enjoy tours of the Capitol, craft activities, and a visit to the new Then Now Wow exhibit at the History Center.

Joe Hoover and David Grabitske exhibited photos, booklets, and other products from various historical organizations that have received Legacy-funded grants through the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grants Program.  Department Head Barbara Mitchell Howard and David Mather, National Register Archaeologist, joined the festivities throughout the day.  This blogger (Leslie Coburn) visited her state representative, Michael Paymar, to advocate for continued preservation funding and tax credits…but, despite his graciousness, she was too jangled to ask for a photo at the time.  See remedy below.

Joe Hoover and David Grabitske, Historic Preservation, Field Services, and Grants Dept., Minnesota Historical Society

Joe Hoover and David Grabitske, Historic Preservation, Field Services, and Grants Dept., Minnesota Historical Society



Pinwheel craft activity at the Capitol
Pinwheel craft activity at the Capitol



Barbara Mitchell Howard, Deputer State Historic Preservation Officer

Barbara Mitchell Howard, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer



Rep. Paymar and me...sort of

Rep. Paymar and me...sort of




Behind the Scenes at the Uptown Theatre

Posted byLeslie Coburn on 17 Jan 2013 | Tagged as: SHPO Out & About


Last night (1/16/2013), Preserve Minneapolis and Landmark Theatres hosted an insider’s look at the recently completed Uptown Theatre rehabilitation project.  Architects Bob Mack and Amy Meller of MacDonald and Mack Architects described the challenges of meeting the client’s needs while advocating for retention of character-defining features.

“We had a few discussions,” Mack said diplomatically, of Landmark’s plans to re-vamp the theater, reducing underutilized seating capacity from around 900 seats to 350 and increasing leasible retail space.  The most noticeable change, apart from the tangy lime-green and orange lobby colors, is that the two flanking stairways to the mezzanine level have been moved inside the auditorium to make room for additional storefront space.

Theater manager Patrick Cross was on hand to give his impressions of the new spaces.  “I wouldn’t have put the stairs in the interior of the auditorium,” he said, because you can’t access the new bar on the mezzanine while the movie is playing.  Cross said that, on the positive side, the improved cash flow from leasible space meant the theater could remain a single-screen movie house, usually a money-losing model in current film industry economics.  Without that, a second auditorium might have been carved out of the balcony seating and mezzanine areas, dramatically altering the interior spaces.

About the project, from the Preserve Minneapolis event flyer:

Originally built in 1916, the Uptown Theatre was modernized in 1939 by the architectural team of Liebenberg and Kaplan in the Streamline Moderne style. It was designated a local landmark in 1990. After years of use, several remodelings, and minimal general maintenance, the Uptown Theatre was in need of repair when new building owners took over in 2009. In addition, changes in theater technology and usage required the long-term tenant, Landmark Theatres, to update interior spaces.

MacDonald & Mack Architects worked with the owner to develop an exterior restoration plan which included masonry, tower sign, and marquee repairs in addition to replacement of non-historic storefronts. On the interior, Landmark Theatres wanted to decrease their rental space providing the owner with an opportunity to expand the retail spaces flanking the main entrance, improve accessibility, and update restrooms. Remaining character-defining interior elements – such as the open lobby and mezzanine relationship, re-created Acousti-Celotex murals, and light fixtures – were preserved although the stairs to the balcony and mezzanine were relocated to accommodate retail expansion. Landmark Theatres also took advantage of the remodeling to update interior finishes, install more comfortable seating, replace projection equipment, and address ticketing and concession deficiencies in the main lobby and mezzanine level.

Wednesday’s tour included a trip through the theater’s subterranean tunnel, which constricts menacingly the farther into it you go.  Vintage graffiti graces the walls, and an abandoned microwave labeled “MURDER” lends a macabre air.

Catherine Sandlund, staffer at Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office, was there to see the finished results, in anticipation of other theater rehab projects she’ll be assisting through the historic tax credit program in the near future.