Abandoned building holds promise

Kevin McCahill

The Bunge grain elevator in Southeast Como looms over the neighborhood like a towering gargoyle.

It used to be a fully operational grain depot for the Midwest region, but now in its abandoned state, neighborhood leaders believe it has become a dangerous locale for nearby residents.

The site has been abandoned for more than two years, and has become a hangout for vagrants and others, according to James De Soto, Southeast Como Improvement Association neighborhood coordinator. But there may be a brighter future in sight.

Project for Pride in Living, a housing nonprofit organization, has a purchase agreement prepared. Chris Wilson, director of real estate development for the organization, said the company hopes to obtain the property by early 2006.

Wilson said the organization plans to remove the silos and other storage facilities while retaining the main tower with the Bunge name and turning it into housing. The organization plans to build condominiums on the remaining property. The condos will range in price from $100,000 to $1 million, Wilson said.

Wilson, a Marcy-Holmes resident, said removing the elevator will be good for the area.

“Any time there are abandoned buildings, there is a potential for problems,” he said. “(New housing) will be a real boon to the neighborhood.”

In the meantime, leaders like De Soto said the building is a burden on the neighborhood.

“It’s frightening for people when they walk past,” he said.

There have been reports of a lot of traffic at odd hours near the site, De Soto said.

“We are trying to (get) increased patrols out there, but there is not much we can do,” he said.

Part of the problem, De Soto said, arises because Bunge is selling the elevator, but the deal won’t close until next year. Until then, nothing will be done with the site.

De Soto said the current Bunge owners haven’t done much in securing the site.

Deb Seidel, director of communications for Bunge North America, which owns the property, said the corporation has hired a private security firm to watch the area.

Seidel would not disclose the name of the company, but said any incidents would be reported to the Minneapolis Police Department. The St. Louis-based company has owned the elevator since 1935.

She said emergency calls to the site are rare, but recalled incidents when the building was broken into and wiring was stripped.

Seidel said she is confident the company is doing what it can to keep the area safe.

“I think Bunge is doing what Bunge can do to make sure it is as safe as possible,” she said.

Jim Long, 2nd Precinct crime prevention specialist, said the property has received three calls for service in the past year; one for a parking violation, another for a burglary and another for a suspicious person.

That doesn’t add up to much activity, he said.

Some students said they didn’t think the elevator was something to be concerned about.

“I’ve just heard about people climbing it,” communications junior Maggie Neck said.

Global studies junior Nora Seiwert said she had never heard about issues at the elevator, and wasn’t worried about what went on there.

According to Jennifer Lee, resource coordinator for Southeast Como Improvement Association, her group sent a letter to Bunge on Oct. 19 concerning the graffiti and security issues the buildings represent. The association received no response to the letter, Lee said.

She said she was frustrated at “both the company and the city’s lack of response” to the group’s concerns.

Lee said she believes the city should step in to secure the site if the business won’t.