The Fruen Mill, a 19th century Minneapolis industrial ruin where trespassers have been injured and killed, is being purchased by developers who plan to gut it to build stores, housing and a restaurant.
AtGlenwood LLC — an entity run by Chris Jahnke and Haig Newton, co-owners of Push Interactive marketing — said Friday it is partnering with June Capital LLC to bring new life, and stability, to the troubled site.
This deal is the latest by Jahnke and Newton to rejuvenate parcels along Bassett Creek near Theodore Wirth Park on the city's west side.
The mill, built in the 1890s, is named for William H. Fruen, an early Minneapolis businessman who originally manufactured screws and waterwheel governors on the site. His milling company became the first manufacturer of table cereals in Minneapolis. After it was sold to ConAgra in 1971, the mill was closed and the site fenced off.
Over four decades, various developers owned the site with ideas to turn the mill and its six-story elevator into condos or other uses. None made those ideas work, however.
Trespassers, some calling themselves urban explorers, routinely encroached on the site, and the building is filled with graffiti. In the past decade alone, at least four people have been injured, including as recently as June, and at least one person killed while exploring the crumbling mill.
In March 2014, the AtGlenwood duo bought three acres adjacent to the mill that included structures used by the former Glenwood Inglewood Water Co. The partners are finishing renovations on those buildings and plan to next build a three- to four-story office building on that site. Then, they expect to work on the Fruen Mill land.
"It all sat vacant and neglected for years," Newton said.
The developers will seek grant money for environmental remediation of the mill site. They envision ground-level retail and a restaurant overlooking the creek on the site. Eventually, they imagine a housing component being added.
They expect to gut the mill buildings and said it's unclear how much will remain of them when they're done. "We still have to figure out what we can salvage and what we can't," Newton said.
The AtGlenwood partners had been eyeing the mill site for a while. They accelerated their purchasing timeline this winter when its previous owner, Fruen Mill Partners LLC, lapsed on its taxes for the property.
"In order to do anything with the mill, we had to get our site up and running and stable," Jahnke said. "Well, with that site in tax forfeiture, it sped things up quite quickly."
Jahnke and Newton knew they wanted the site but didn't have financing in place. June Capital LLC, which Newton says is "a close partner," bought the mortgage, paid the taxes and foreclosed at a Hennepin County Sheriff's sale for about $459,000 in January, according to public records. Matt Oberman, of Hopkins-based Oberman Real Estate Group LLC, is June Capital's manager and says he sees "great potential" in the site.
Terms of the deal and partnership have not been disclosed. The firms expect to close the deal next week.
The developers said they are aware of the security concerns associated with the abandoned mill.
"It's dangerous in there. We are working with the city very closely," Jahnke said. "They sent police to board it up as much as they could."
Meanwhile, their revamp of the former Glenwood Inglewood Water site is gaining momentum with new tenant signings. Push Interactive moved into the space last summer and Top Source Media moved in as the building's second tenant in January.
Last week, Bryn Mawr Brewing Co. announced it signed a 10-year lease for an 18,000-square-foot warehouse building on the site. It plans to open in the building early next year.
Daniel Justesen, the brewery's owner, said it took a year to get the lease signed because of negotiations over access with the Santa Fe railroad, which has tracks running next to the property, and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
The Park Board is exchanging a small, unused chunk of land next to Justesen's brewery for a parcel of green space that is exactly the same size but is immediately connected to Theodore Wirth Park. AtGlenwood's partner, June Capital, is the current owner of the latter property. Justesen plans to turn the Park Board's land into an 11,000-square-foot beer garden.
The Park Board is giving up land that's "inaccessible and really unusable for the park," said Renay Leone, real estate planner for the parks board. "It's a great deal for everyone all around."
Justesen, vice president of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild and former co-owner of Vine Park Brewery in St. Paul, plans to brew European-style beers using the same natural spring water wells that the site's former water company did. He hired LSE Architects of Minneapolis to design the space. "I'm building this brewery to be here long after I'm gone," Justesen said.