The downtown Minneapolis complex that houses the Mill City Museum will undergo analysis to determine whether its historic buildings are in need of repair to ensure the facility endures for decades.

The Minnesota Historical Society is seeking proposals for architecture consultants to help survey the Washburn “A” Mill and the complex’s seven other buildings to create a long-term preservation plan. The study will target specific structures, both inside and outside, to see whether changes need to be made to maintain the buildings.

The study could also help unlock state money for future restoration and preservation.

The request for proposals comes at a time when development is booming around the historic site. Among the many projects, city officials are mulling new plans for downtown riverfront trails and park space and prepping for the construction of the nearby Mill City Quarter housing project beginning in April.

“It’s fantastic that a neighborhood has grown up around one of the more historically significant areas of Minneapolis,” said David Kelliher, the Minnesota Historical Society’s director of public policy and community relations. “[We’re doing] a periodic check-in to see how the buildings are to make sure we anticipate the needs of preserving [them] for the next 10, 20, 50 years.”

He said the society is not addressing immediate concerns related to the condition of the buildings, which were built between 1880 and 1928, but rather trying to ensure their upkeep in the future.

The society and other groups have pursued other projects for preserving the complex in the past. The Washburn Crosby Elevator No. 1 that’s located next to the Mill City Museum underwent repairs in 2012 to update its roof, concrete exterior and to seal its windows and doors.

For the new analysis, the society is requesting proposals from historical architects. It hopes to pick a consultant and begin research in April.

Kelliher said the society has a budget for the study, but it won’t disclose any more details until the window closes for new proposals.

The Mill City Museum, which takes up most of the site’s office and museum space, opened in 2003. The new review will make sure the complex’s structures — like roofs and brick siding — are in line with what the previous study determined.

The society is expecting a final report by the end of the year that outlines maintenance plans, treatment recommendations and cost estimates. From there, the society would request state bonding dollars to help pay for building repairs.

“That’s where it might possibly go next, if there are some more immediate things we need to do,” Kelliher said.

Formulating similar long-term plans is typical for the sites the Minnesota Historical Society oversees, he said, and it will add the study’s findings to its list of potential projects around the state.

“We are doing our job as an organization that’s responsible for a whole bunch of historic buildings,” he said. “This is one of them, and we’re trying to get ahead of the curve to make sure we’re anticipating the needs of this place.”


Jessica Lee is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.