Take a tour of the historic building at 430 Oak Grove Street in Minneapolis, and you’ll see why Kraus-Anderson Realty, which built the Loring Park icon in 1924, wanted to restore it. “It’s a beautiful, old, limestone building—five-sided with high ceilings and expansive windows,” says Mike Korsh, the company’s vice president and director of real estate development. “[It] gave us the opportunity to do an apartment project with some character, one that would hopefully have some staying power in a market that goes up and down.”
In 2011, after acquiring the building, which was originally constructed as offices for a life insurance company, Kraus-Anderson began the arduous project of getting it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Doing so was a double-edged sword: it allowed for tax credits that made the project financially feasible but would prevent some changes the company wanted to make. Kraus-Anderson could not replace the windows, for example, or refinish the concrete floors. Even installing wood on top of the concrete became more expensive, requiring a unique application that ensured the wood could later be removed without damaging the concrete.
Charlene Roise of historical consulting firm Hess Roise guided Kraus-Anderson through the process. “Before we purchased the building, we walked through it with Charlene,” Korsh says. “She let us know what it would take to list it on the National Register and later acted as a mediator between Kraus-Anderson and the Historical Preservation Society to ensure that we both got what we needed out of the partnership.”
The building’s sustainability story is primarily one of adaptive reuse. “We brought in a sustainability consultant, The Weidt Group, which ensured that we did as much as we could with energy and lighting,” Korsh says, “but, as I learned, when you’re doing these historical projects, you don’t have a lot of choices because you can’t tear things down and bring in new materials. Any original, permanent structures can’t be touched.”
Still, the result is inspiring: a Beaux Arts façade, a lobby illuminated by a skylight, an interior courtyard with a glowing fireplace. These details are the work of Elness Swenson Graham Architects, and Korsh couldn’t be more pleased, though solutions were not immediately evident. “The building is in the perfect spot for apartments, overlooking a park, which is rare in Minneapolis, but in walking through for the first time, it was so cut up that it was hard to understand what it could be,” Korsh says. “Our architect did an amazing job of coming up with 75 usable luxury units that are almost entirely different.”
Each apartment’s unique plan is one of the project’s selling points, and Korsh is confident that the $20 million project will have staying power. That’s partly because Kraus-Anderson is a long-term holder of real estate and partly because the building is now part of the historical fiber of Minneapolis, which lost much of its original real estate in the 1950s and 1960s when, as part of a plan for urban renewal, the city razed 200 buildings across 25 city blocks—roughly 40 percent of downtown. Many buildings with notable architecture were destroyed, including those in the Gateway District, the historic core of the city.
“With this building, we came of age,” says Korsh, who is the grandson of Lloyd Englesma, who led Kraus-Anderson for decades. “It gives us a sense of pride to be around long enough to repurpose a historically significant building we built almost 90 years ago.”