By Anne Holzman
The Falcon Heights City Council on April 22 accepted a grant from the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for environmental remediation of the former TIES building site.
City Administrator Sack Thongvanh said the grant requires a $50,000 “local match,” which will be paid by Buhl Investors, the site’s owner and developer. Now known as Amber Union, the site is at the southwest corner of Larpenteur and Snelling avenues.
The building’s west annex has been used in the past as a garage and requires soil cleanup in order to redevelop the buildings for affordable housing.
Built in 1947 to house the Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association, the buildings have been praised as examples of Art Deco architectural style.
In an interview in early May, Community Development Coordinator Justin Markon explained obtaining the DEED grant was one of several hurdles to be cleared before renovations can begin. For example, the city is seeking help with asbestos cleanup from the Metropolitan Council, he said.
Markon said Buhl also needs state financing in the form of affordable housing bonds but that the project didn’t make it into the most recent round of affordable housing bonds granted by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency in January. The city will serve as a conduit for the bonds.
According to Markon, Buhl originally planned to begin its housing project in 2020 but that timeline looks “increasingly unlikely.”
Buhl principal Pete Deanovic told the Bugle he anticipates starting construction in the first quarter of 2021 and that there is another round of bonds coming in July.
“I would say we’re in line for bonds,” Deanovic said.
Meanwhile, Buhl is maintaining the buildings so they remain useable. Deanovic said Buhl is exploring whether the buildings might be able to gain designation as a historic structure. He’s been working with the National Park Service to establish the historical significance of the building and sort out how renovation for housing might affect its status as a landmark.
At its April 22 meeting, several council members expressed appreciation for Buhl’s work to date on the project.
“Buhl company has just been working very hard,” Council member Melanie Leehy said. “They’ve been very diligent in every step and every hurdle.”
Anne Holzman, a former St. Anthony Park resident, is regular freelance writer for the Bugle.