City denies elevator demolition

Owners of the grain elevator east of campus hoped to sell the land to the University.

The Electric Steel Elevator stands in Prospect Park on September 9. In late August, the Minneapolis City Council denied the University's appeal to demolish the grain silos and develop on the plot of land.

Maddy Fox

The Electric Steel Elevator stands in Prospect Park on September 9. In late August, the Minneapolis City Council denied the University’s appeal to demolish the grain silos and develop on the plot of land.

Dan Murphy

An attempt by the University of Minnesota to expand its borders has been put on hold. 
 
In June, the University agreed to purchase a 5-acre property and a 114-year-old grain elevator near the TCF Bank Stadium. But the transaction’s future remains unclear after the Minneapolis City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee denied an appeal by the parcel’s current owner — Riverland Ag Corporation — to demolish the building. 
 
The company’s original proposal was denied in July after the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission said the facility was too historically significant to demolish.  
 
“This is arguably the last remaining steel terminal elevator in the country,” Ward 12 Councilman Andrew Johnson said at last week’s meeting. “I think we have a responsibility here to look at the history of this and to make an effort to try and reuse it and preserve this history.”
 
But at a preservation committee meeting last month, Craig Reiners, Riverland Ag’s COO, said the company explored rehabilitation options — like commercial and residential uses for the building — but found that there are no viable alternatives to rehab the building. 
 
“We’ve looked for several years at other reuse applications,” he said at the meeting. “Quite frankly we ended up with one, and that was the potential and final sale of the property to the University of Minnesota.”
 
Since the University and Riverland Ag haven’t closed on the agreement, the University could cancel the nearly $1 million purchase. 
 
After the recent death of a University student who fell while trespassing in another abandoned grain elevator nearby, the safety of similar structures has been questioned — a concern that Riverland Ag raised with the council.  
 
Though Reiners said the building’s safety was a factor in Riverland Ag’s desire to have the elevator torn down, city officials said the danger to trespassers could be offset by additional security measures from the current owners.
 
“I’ve been in these elevators for […] 42 years. If you have the right equipment and know what you’re doing, they can [still] be very, very dangerous”, Reiners said.
 
“For these urban explorers that come in the middle of the night, not knowing what they’re doing … I wouldn’t do it myself, and I know where to go. It’s very, very dangerous.”
 
Susan Carlson Weinberg, the University’s director of real estate, said the decision would again be appealed by Riverland Ag.
 
“We’re hopeful that the City Council will grant the needed approval for the seller to complete that demolition,” she said.