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Armory plans inch forward in downtown east

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: May 5, 2014 - 2:39 PM

Owners of the Minneapolis Armory in downtown will submit detailed plans this week to repair the building's roof, part of a larger process to overhaul the historic structure.

The proposal calls for converting the 1935 building, home to many events in Minneapolis history, from a downtown parking lot into a multi-use space for concerts, galas and athletics. It is expected to cost upwards of $22 million.

Doug Hoskin, managing member of Armory Development II, LLC, which owns the building, said they will submit detailed roof repair plans this week to the National Parks Service, which must approve them because of the building's listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

If all goes to plan, repairs to the leaky roof would begin in late summer and the full renovation -- which includes building a new floor above what is now the ground level -- could be complete by next May.

The project is also significant because it coincides with a larger development of downtown east. A new Vikings stadium, Wells Fargo corporate campus, public park and apartments are already being constructed next to the Armory.

“There are only a handful of armories that have been saved around the country," Hoskin said.

He noted that the facilities were built with the intent to serve both a military and a community function.

"The restoration of the Minneapolis Armory falls in line with its intended use as a community facility," Hoskin said.

The National Parks Service approved initial plans for the building last summer. Hoskin said they will submit additional plans in June outlining the more specific changes to the structure. The architects on the project are Shea, Inc.

They will be seeking both state and federal tax credits to help fund the project. "It's the only way I can viably make this project work," Hoskin said.

The Armory has been home to everything from major concerts to the Minneapolis Lakers and bowling championships over its long history.

It was saved from a 1990s plan to convert the building into the new Hennepin County jail -- which was built down the street instead. The ground level and basement now serve as a parking lot for downtown office workers, operated by Interstate Parking.

So just what will happen in the new armory?

"Live music will the primary feature. Secondary will be athletics and will also be a multitude of private events," Hoskin said. Those events could include galas, car shows or square dancing competitions, Hoskin said, some of which are too small for the Minneapolis Convention Center.

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