Tenants of historic Prospect Park building reflect on leaving with uncertainty, optimism

Vermilion Development has plans to redesign the Art and Architecture Building, which may displace residents after construction.

T-Rex Cookie Owner Tina Rexing takes a fresh tray of cookies off the cooling rack on Saturday, June 9. The arts and architecture building that T-Rex Cookie operates in will be replaced by new apartments and retail space in 2018.

Tony Saunders

T-Rex Cookie Owner Tina Rexing takes a fresh tray of cookies off the cooling rack on Saturday, June 9. The arts and architecture building that T-Rex Cookie operates in will be replaced by new apartments and retail space in 2018.

Tiffany Bui

Tina Rexing, owner of T-Rex Cookie, understands being a small business owner comes with challenges.

Rexing’s latest challenge is securing the future of her business after redevelopment of the Art and Architecture building in Prospect Park. Vermilion Development, a Chicago-based real estate developer, has plans to redesign the building and adjacent businesses into condominiums, apartments and retail space. The development, approved by the Prospect Park Association’s project task force and is awaiting approval from PPA’s land use committee on June 12, has caused uncertainty among tenants about whether they will still have a space when construction is finished. 

The next step for T-Rex Cookie

T-Rex Cookie occupies the first floor of the Art and Architecture Building. Rexing, who has been in the building for two years, said she was taken aback when she first heard she would need to move this upcoming January due to construction. 

“Any small business owner doesn’t go into business assuming everything is going to stay the same. [Being] forced to move is really helping me reevaluate how we are doing as a business,” said Rexing. 

Rexing has plans to franchise the company and is working with Vermilion to create a space for T-Rex Cookie in the redesigned building. She said the developer has worked closely with her in the negotiations. In the meantime, she is looking to set up shop in south Minneapolis. 

“It’s not easy to move a business … I’m starting to get people to know where I am and now I have to move, it sucks. This entire situation sucks. But I have to be a smart and good sport about it and show everyone that I’m adaptable enough to take my business to whichever way it works,” said Rexing.

Long-term tenants look to a more uncertain future 

Adjacent to Rexing’s cookie shop is Art and Architecture, Inc., an architectural salvage store filled with furniture from old houses. CoCo Hohman is a long-time employee and artist who lives and works in the building. 

Hohman said the space has been affordable because Jim Schmitt, landlord and owner of Art and Architecture, Inc., keeps the rent down for long-term tenants like her. After the building changes ownership and goes through redevelopment, she and other artists are concerned the space won’t be affordable enough for them to stay.

“I don’t believe that I could afford to keep a space here … because the condos will be next door to the apartments. I think the rents are going to be too high,” said Hohman.

Schmitt plans to relocate Art and Architecture, Inc. following construction, but hopes to stay in Prospect Park. 

On the second floor above Art and Architecture, Inc. is another tenant considering its future location.

Youth Performance Company, a non-profit theatre company that serves young performers, was offered a spot in the Vermilion redesign. But founder and artist director of YPC Jacie Knight doubts the company can afford the new space.

“We’re a non-profit that works with kids. We don’t want to spend our money moving back and forth and back and forth,” said Knight.

While the City of Minneapolis stresses density along the Metro Transit Green Line, Knight said long-time tenants don’t always get to reap the benefits the light rail brings when new developments raise rents. 

Knight said the future of the nonprofit is uncertain, but will continue looking for a new location. 

Ari Parritz, a development manager with Vermilion, said tenants that wish to come back are welcome, but there is no guarantee the same space or rent will be available to them. 

“We need to make sure the tenants that are coming in make the structure financially viable,” said Parritz.

Vermilion will appear before the Minneapolis City Planning Commission on June 25 and plans on purchasing the building by the end of the year, Parritz said.