Informally known as “Flour Milling Capital of the World,” the City of Minneapolis flourished even more so when the Pillsbury A-Mill opened for business in the 1880s. Co-founder of the Pillsbury Company, Charles Alfred Pillsbury, came up with the innovative idea of making the Pillsbury A-Mill, along the Mississippi River, architecturally pleasing to the eyes. With Minneapolis architect LeRoy S. Buffington’s design, for forty years, the Pillsbury A-Mill was the largest flour mill in the world. The building was considered elegant according to The Northwestern Miller newspaper on April 29, 1881. Made out of limestone, the six-story building had eight-and-a-half feet thick walls to secure its foundation. Because of its success in history, the National Park Service recognized the Pillsbury A-Mill and appointed the building a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
Unfortunately, the milling industry slowly declined after World War I. With new milling technology being incorporated into the industry, mill production at the Pillsbury A-Mill concluded in 2003. However, even after the closing of the mill, the infrastructure remained and in 2011, the National Trust for Historic Preservation pinned it on the list of 11 Most Endangered Places. Luckily, Dominium, an affordable housing development and management company, decided to help preserve the Pillsbury complex by turning it into an affordable housing project in 2013. Now renamed the A-Mill Artist Lofts, the affordable apartment complex has 251 units solely for artists in the Twin Cities area.
According to the A-Mill Artist Lofts’ official website, Dominium and BKV Group, a Minneapolis architectural firm, designed the housing project “for individuals who are committed to a life in the arts.” Its creation aims to provide all residents with a positive work and life balance. Surely as the mission states, the A-Mill Artist Lofts only accepts artist applications—at least one member of the household must be able to provide a résumé, references and portfolio, history of creative work, and long term creative and career goals. Most importantly, applicants must meet the A-Mill Artist Lofts’ income qualification. For instance, for a single unit or studio with one occupant, the applicant must make less than $34,420 a year in order to qualify.
Among other things, the affordable housing project is committed to providing artists with accessible space to accompany their needs when working. For example, the complex has a dance studio, private or group workspaces for pottery, painting, music, multimedia, culinary arts, photography, and more. The property’s community manager, David Lepak, further expresses that the management wants to give artists an opportunity to live affordably with low cost rent and the space to develop their arts. He states that the artist loft initiative will create a driving force for individuals to come to “the area for creative resources, and bring untapped resources to an already existing artists community with theaters and galleries.” Without a doubt, Dominium’s strategic plan not only helps preserve the historical site, it also gives Pillsbury A-Mill a new meaning.
Despite the renovation and disassociation with the Pillsbury Company, the A-Mill Artist Lofts still holds the iconic design on the outside; with the limestone walls and steel beam foundation. The building serves as a historical landmark in Minneapolis and tells the story of Mill City in the 1880s. Now, with the red Pillsbury’s Best Flour sign reconstructed in LED lights, the affordable apartment building will continue to add history and culture to the City of Minneapolis.
How will the A-Mill Artist Lofts project transform the artist community in Minneapolis? What are some artist lofts initiatives in your city? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.
Credits: Images by Tam Nguyen. Data linked to sources.