Saving The Brewery That Grew With The Great Northwest

October 22, 2012

Schmidt posterIn the Twin Cities, we have a funny way of taking on big projects. Mostly we talk about them for decades (light-rail train lines, sports stadiums) … and then we actually do them.

One big project that’s still in the talking stage is redeveloping the old Schmidt’s Brewery in St. Paul. This is a place where humans brewed beer for more than 150 years. What remains today is a grand, hulking edifice that begs to be reborn.

But this is a huge and expensive undertaking, which means plenty of fits and starts. It’s been a decade since the Minnesota Brewing Company, which defaced the property with a sky-high “Landmark” beer sign, halted operations. An ethanol operation that annoyed the neighborhood to no end shut down in 2004.

So now we’re talking and talking about redevelopment. The most recent discussion centers around a plan for artists lofts. Apartment developer Dominium intends to turn the complex into about 250 lofts. The company has secured financial help from the city and created a website highlighting its plans.

Dominium set a goal of starting construction in June 2012, but there’s not much evidence of progress just yet, aside from a “Coming Soon” sign touting the lofts. Dominium is pressing ahead, trying to maintain excitement. Last month, Schmidt Artist Lofts hosted the 5th Annual West 7th Iron Pour on the site, giving people a chance to pour molten metal into a mold. Another small sign of life are the vending machines that let you buy water from the aquifer for 50 cents per gallon.

But you won’t see lots of construction vehicles or guys in hard hats.

I don’t doubt something good will happen with the Schmidt’s Brewery. The site is too rich in history to ignore and the buildings to grand to waste. Here’s to hoping we won’t need another decade or two to turn talk into action.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of the Schmidt’s complex. I took all the photos (except the historical shot) on Oct. 21, 2012.

Schmidt's Brewer St. Paul

Schmidt's Brewery

Schmidt's Brewery

Schmidt's Brewery gate

Schmidt's Brewery historical

Minnesota Historical Society