The craft beer craze has proved to be a boon for a growing roster of hard-to-rent and long-vacant commercial spaces around the Twin Cities in the wake of a state law that allows taprooms to be attached to small-scale breweries.

And now, after this month’s approval of a conditional use permit and zoning variances by the Minneapolis Planning Commission, a 100-year-old former theater building at 2934 Lyndale Av. S. is set to join that list with the planned June opening of the LynLake Brewery.

The building, with its distinctive marquee, has been vacant since 2006 when former tenant Theater Antiques closed. Three years ago it seemed poised to become the new home of the shuttered Uptown Bar, but that deal ultimately fell through.

It has finally found takers in craft beer ­aficionados Paul Cossette, a senior vice president with Mortenson Construction, and Mark Anderson, president of Metropolitan ­Mechanical Contractors, who have teamed with ­brewmaster Joel Carlson to establish what would be the third small brewing ­operation in the popular LynLake neighborhood.

Their plans call for a $1 million makeover of the 4,700-square-foot first-floor space into a brewery and a taproom, with a new rooftop patio above. LynLake Brewery would join the Herkimer brewpub to its north and the Moto-I sake brewery on the south to form something of a craft brewing hub along the block.

The proposal was met with enthusiasm by neighborhood groups and city officials and will kick off next month with an interior demolition and subsequent build-out, Cossette said.

“We’re in the process of getting building permits now and finalizing our designs,” he said. “When it was an antique store, they had put in drywall. We got in there and did some limited demolition and discovered some interesting brickwork underneath, so we’re going to peel all that back and restore the ‘old building’ feel.”

The concept is for a “fairly simple, basic” taproom with the focus on the brewery, which will not be walled or glassed off from the serving area.

“All of the brewing equipment and fermenting tanks will be exposed right in the ­taproom,” Cossette said.

The main construction work instead will come with the installation of a new stairway and elevator going up to the building’s roof, half of which will be turned into a patio space featuring “fireball” sculptures. The 5-foot-diameter, handcrafted steel spheres hold ­fireplaces that illuminate elaborately carved sides when lit.

The brewery’s beer philosophy will be the domain of the 32-year-old Carlson, who is coming to the LynLake operation from Minneapolis Town Hall, where he had been working as a lead brewer.

The Virginia, Minn., native says the opportunity to create what he hopes will become a neighborhood institution in LynLake is a dream job for him.

“It’s a chance for me to really be creative in trying out new recipes,” he said. “I feel if you’re going to brew beer, you want to do it right, and I’m going to do that by researching styles and then deciding how I’m going to enhance them.”

Carlson said he’s likely to favor a variety of “full-flavored, bold beers,” but also will produce balanced beers, such as the cask ales he helped make while working with his mentor, Bob DuVernois at Great Waters Brewing Co. in St. Paul.

Such ales are served at “cellar temperature,” around 55 degrees, whereas most draft beers are served at refrigerator temperature — around 38 degrees.

“[The warmer temperature] allows those flavors to just jump out of the glass, and I hope to bring some of that experience here,” he said.

One of the main attractions that drew him to the new venture is the strong neighborhood identity of LynLake, which has a heavy emphasis on bicyclists using the nearby ­Midtown Greenway.

“There is a lot of great food, beer and talent around here,” he said. “I would like to bring people here and give them beer that they can be proud of as being part of that identity.”


Don Jacobson is a St. Paul-based freelance writer and former editor of the Minnesota Real Estate Journal. He has covered Twin Cities commercial real estate for about 10 years.