Pillsbury A. The name proudly etched on the front façade, strong she stands in all her brick industrial glory - the most famous building along the Minneapolis Mississippi Riverfront.
No current piece of residential architecture built in the last year will ever compare aesthetically to the architecture built back in Minneapolis' glory days of flour milling. It is no wonder that all the latest creative developers (see: First & First) are flocking to the once known Warehouse District (now, the North Loop) to recapture and restore the old world beauty of tall standing industrial structures awaiting to tell their story through much needed style and character.
On a recent tour with the Minnesota's Urban Land Institute (ULI) Young Leaders Group (YLG) hosted by a fellow YLG member, we got the inside look into the on-going work and future plans of restoring the historic Pillsbury A-Mill, which has been sitting vacant for quite some time along the ever expanding riverfront.
Building Description and History
The A-Mill Artist Lofts is an ambitious restoration and redevelopment project encompassing two city blocks of historic industrial structures. The site is located in downtown Minneapolis on the East Bank of the Mississippi River at the heart of the former flour capital of the world. The anchor of the site is the original Pillsbury "A" Mill constructed in 1881 by Charles A. Pillsbury. The building is constructed of Platville limestone and features a distinctive bow of over 2' in both plan and section as a result of poor engineering and the qualities of the stone exterior (and this can be easily seen if you gaze at the building from afar). The A-Mill is designated as a National Landmark, while the other 8 structures on the site are on the National Register of Historic Places.
(Source: BKV Group)
The fascinating aspect about this project are the future resident artists whose creativity will soon fill the walls, halls and every nook of this already historic and artistic building. As all the other residential buildings along the riverfront cater to the luxury lifestyle, this project will feature 255 affordable artist housing units. Additionally, the residence will feature common art spaces including art galleries, clay studios, painting studios, a photography studio, digital media studios, vocal and instrumental sound booths, dance practice studios, and a performance hall. The plan for the lower level of the A-Mill is a new Interpretive Museum that will tell the story of the complex and the role of water power in milling. New interventions on the buildings will be completed in a way that respects the historic and raw industrial character of the buildings. Two new primary entrances feature extruded metal volumes that recall industrial chutes found within the buildings and respect the industrial character of the site.
(Source: BKV Group)
The Pillsbury A-Mill was once a prominent landmark along the almighty Mississippi riverfront and Saint Anthony Falls, and it will soon reclaim its title and prominence as the A-Mill Artist Lofts. What stood out to me predominately whilst on this tour were the graffiti, stunning views of the Minneapolis skyline and the waterfalls all perfectly framed within the walls and windows looking inside-out. Although much of the interior is still raw and exposed, it somehow enhanced the beauty of everything around, even the industrial material and the graffiti on the walls, which somehow seem to work perfectly within its brick composition. One thing was clear - the Pillsbury A was and will always remain as the most talked about structure along the Minneapolis Mississippi Riverfront.
Images by author, unless otherwise specified. Data linked to sources.
Full time City Transportation Planner. Part time urbanista dreamer & traveler residing in Minneapolis, Minnesota.