Buzza Building/Lehmann Center

Buzza Building/Lehmann Center

The Buzza Company Building is headed for its latest iteration as an apartment building after a 105-year history that includes greeting cards, periscopes, military reservist training and immigrant education .

The building at 1006 W. Lake Street, better known as the Lehmann Center in recent years, was sold last month by Minneapolis Public Schools for $6.15 million to Plymouth-based Dominium Development. Dominium plans to convert it to 136 units of apartments, mostly one and two-bedroom units affordable to people of moderate incomes. The project cost is $34.5 million.

“The Uptown area of Minneapolis is a thriving and vibrant area, but there is a lack of affordable housing in the area," said Paul Sween, co-managing partner of Dominium.

That conversion will be helped its recent entry into the National Register of Historic Places, which will make it eligible for tax credits available for conversions of historic building. The building was designated both for the time when the Buzza Company ran its greeting card business there and its World War II use by Honeywell for periscope assembly. Two previous studies concluded that it was not eligible for historic designation.

The building was built in 1907, and eventually expanded to more than 139,000 square feet. It was initially occupied by the Self-Threading Needle Co., before becoming the production headquarters of Buzza, which designed and made greeting cards as that industry boomed. It was leased by the military to Honeywell during the war and the federal government bought it in 1950. It was donated to school district in 1971.

During school ownership, the district used it for a variety of offices, including community education offices and area superintendent offices. Wellstone Internaitonal High School, which serves a mostly immigrant student body, resided there as a district alternative high school before moving to Roosevelt High School.

The project includes $25 million in city-issued housing revenue bonds, but those will be paid down with the proceeds from selling tax credits to investors. Those credits were awarded to help with financing historic rehabilitation and creating affordable housing.

The building was put up for sale by the district as part of a six-building closure approved in 2010.