Area to welcome ‘Surly’ neighbor

Prospect Park is hoping the $20 million project will help spur new growth in the area.

An industrial site in Prospect Park will be the new location of Surly Brewing Company. The company spent $1.8 million on the Minneapolis site.

Amanda Snyder

An industrial site in Prospect Park will be the new location of Surly Brewing Company. The company spent $1.8 million on the Minneapolis site.

Kelsey Shirriff

A concrete-laden, polluted industrial area will soon be replaced with a “destination brewery,” long-awaited by Prospect Park and Surly Brewing Co.

The Brooklyn Center-based brewers purchased the land last week in a move that comes as a win for a neighborhood rapidly capitalizing on recent development.

When the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association first got wind of Surly’s plans for a brewery, the neighborhood approached company owner Omar Ansari with the idea for the site, known as “Malcolm Midway.”

“For us, this is the result, in part, of a proactive approach to attracting them to this area,” said Dick Gilyard, a member of a planning group for the area called Prospect Park 2020. “We think it’s a very unique and catalytic environment that can be created here.”

Surly teamed up with Minneapolis project coordinator Ann Calvert and a consultant group to identify different prospective sites in the city in summer of 2011.

By last fall, planners had narrowed down four sites, including Malcolm Midway, Calvert said, and recent transit development in the neighborhood drew the craft brewers to the site.

“That was a very important factor for Surly in selecting the site; they wanted the light-rail transit and bike paths in the area, etc.,” she said.

Prospect Park 2020 was started after construction plans were finalized for light-rail transit along the Central Corridor, or Green Line, which will start service down University Avenue next year.

The organization saw an opportunity to create a different image for the area as a result of development, Gilyard said, but didn’t want it to become student-oriented like other University neighborhoods.

“The thing about Stadium Village and Dinkytown is their unique and treasured personalities, but they are in large measure geared to the campus,” Gilyard said. “Culture and arts are going to be a very big part of this. We think that’s going to result in a different clientele.”

Cam Gordon, city councilman for the 2nd Ward, said it can be challenging to bring big developments like the light rail and the brewery into neighborhoods.

“That’s one of the tricks — how do we meet the growing needs of everybody in the area?” he said. “I think it’s healthy when we have a real mix of people in our communities.”

The $20 million brewery fits well into Prospect Park 2020’s vision for a destination area that compliments nearby University research facilities, Prospect Park’s Textile Center and the rest of the neighborhood. Gilyard said the location could be a place for the arts, retail and science to come together with new housing developments north of University Avenue.

Breaking ground on Malcolm Midway has to wait until an environmental clean-up is completed first.

“The site was once upon a time a swamp and kind of mucky, then it was used as a dump,” Calvert said. Years of industrial use left behind contaminants, she said.

“They’re the type of thing that, if you’re going to start going out and digging up the site, you have to deal with,” she said.

The Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and Hennepin County each gave environmental grants totaling $2 million to the clean-up effort.

Calvert said the brewery will likely attract visitors to a little-known slice of the city.

“It’s really a part of the city that a lot of people are pretty unaware of right now,” she said. “I think it’s going to be very good for the area that way.”