University begins months of demolition

by Sam Darcy

Demolition is underway that will make a noticeable change to the University’s landscape and allow for expansion.

On Nov. 17, the University began demolition on the Holman, Poucher and University Press buildings as well as the grain elevators located between Southeast 21st and 23rd avenues on land the University purchased in May.

Brian Swanson, the University’s stadium project coordinator, said the demolition process will last until late February or the beginning of March. Demolition of the grain elevators will cost the University roughly $2 million and the buildings will cost about another million dollars, he said.

Swanson said the widening of University Avenue and the relocation of Oak Street will go through where the buildings are, but the University planned on demolishing the buildings a decade ago, even before the stadium was planned.

“We’ve been gradually getting the people out of them and then looking for the money to take them down,” he said. “They’ve been on the chopping block for years.”

The University acquired the 4.7 acres of land where the grain elevators stand May 17 from ConAgra for $1.5 million, University Real Estate Office Director Susan Weinberg said. ConAgra gave the University a chance to buy the property before opening it to the public, she said.

“The negotiations did take a number of months but ConAgra approached the University about purchasing the property, so it was a seller-initiated transaction,” she said.

The site of the grain elevators will initially be used for parking, but the University will use the land for general campus expansion afterwards, likely biomedical research buildings, Swanson said.

“There is one building planned right now that is on University land but would butt up against the grain elevators, and that is the new medical biosciences building,” he said. “But buildings that come will probably be on part of the land we got from the grain elevators.”

Weinberg said the legislation creating funding for the construction of five research laboratory buildings will be resubmitted this year and one building has already received funding. The site of the grain elevators might be used for more research labs in future, she said.

Prospect Park neighborhood representative Dean Lund said the neighborhood has mixed emotions when the University acquires more land, but both sides share a common purpose in developing the industrial area. The neighborhood encourages the development of that area into spin-off enterprises of scientific developments at the University, he said.

“It seems to us it’s obvious that they are going to have to be removed and the land used for another purpose, so we’re not nostalgic about the concrete elevators,” he said. “If they are no longer being commercially used, then steps to promote the reuse of the land is a plus for everybody.”

History senior Dan Ott said although he understands most grain elevators have lost their use, the elevators hold a link to Minneapolis’ past he would like to see preserved.

“It’s progress; the significant role that the elevators in Minneapolis played has passed,” he said. “What is too bad about it is that elevator is just one of many in the railway corridor that will be torn down in the future, offering no memory in the area whatsoever of where they were or what they meant.”

Ott said he would like to see the memories of the grain industry incorporated into the stadium plans because of the role the industry played in the early years of the University.

“It’s important not to forget roots, the roots of the U, and the roots of the state,” he said. “Maybe demolishing those elevators means nothing, but maybe it’s just one of the many that will be demolished and there will be no memory at all.”