Historical Southeast Como building may get fresh start as arts center

Como residents discussed the potential renovation of a vacant church into an arts center at a meeting Wednesday night.

A vacant church located at 1035 14th Ave SE could be remodeled into a center for the arts if granted approval by city officials.

Maddy Fox

A vacant church located at 1035 14th Ave SE could be remodeled into a center for the arts if granted approval by city officials.

Tiffany Bui

Stage lights and musical numbers could fill a vacant Southeast Como church if plans for a renovation move forward.

The church, located at 1035 14th Ave SE, would be remodeled into a center for the arts if granted approval by city officials. Neighborhood residents met Wednesday night at a Southeast Como Improvement Association meeting to discuss the potential addition to the area.

“It’s just a great opportunity to bring people together. Everybody likes art, whether its theater or music,” said Joan Menken, a SECIA board member.

The plans were originally brought forward by Theatre Elision, a theatrical company looking for a home for their performances. 

Cindy Polich, founder and resident playwright of Theatre Elision, outlined her plans for development and fielded questions from community members at the meeting. 

Polich discussed how performance space was one of her main motivators for purchasing the building for Theatre Elision.

“Finding space to put on the show in the Twin Cities is not easy because there are a lot of theater companies, and there are not a lot of spaces for theater companies who don’t have their own facilities,” she said.

Polich said she hopes to use the arts center, tentatively named Como Arts, as a way to share women’s stories through intimate musicals. 

“We’re very much interested in making opportunities for female actors, as well as women who direct and stage manage and write plays,” she said. 

The building won’t be limited to Theatre Elision, however. Recognizing the lack of space for Minneapolis theater companies, Polich said she will open the space to other artists and groups.

At the meeting, residents made suggestions about parking for the potential arts center and voiced their approval of the planned renovation. 

A few residents expressed approval that Polich would preserve the historical building rather than tear it down.

“It was an active church until 15, 20 years ago. But as the population aged, as people left … the attendance declined … until it was no longer a viable space for a church,” Menken said.

The project still faces potential technical hiccups. The church may require rezoning if converted into a performance center. 

University of Minnesota senior Megan Lasch, who attended the meeting, said the rezoning process would be worthwhile. 

“I think this area needs a lot more mixed-use zoning, so this would be good. We need a better mix of not just housing, and that’s really what’s being created in this neighborhood,” Lasch said.

The community meeting was just a starting point, but Polich has gained many supporters to help advance the project.

Cody Olson, executive director of SECIA, noted Polich’s emphasis on getting community feedback early on, something he said residents have appreciated.

“In the two years I’ve worked here, we’ve never had a potential development be so forthright about outreach to the community so early in the process,” he said.

Olson said that Polich reached out to SECIA based on a recommendation by Ward 2 Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon. At the meeting, SECIA board members added that Gordon was willing to recommend the arts center proposal to fellow council members if it progresses.