Businessman offers to save historic Pillsbury Mansion from demolition

The mansion is now listed as having sold.
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A business owner has offered an alternative to the demolition of the historic Pillsbury Mansion on the shores of Lake Minnetonka.

A permit was granted on Aug. 6 to demolish the gigantic home, the centerpiece of the Pillsbury family's 32,000-square-feet "Southways" estate in Orono, with owners James and Mary Jundt given 6 months to carry out the work.

Despite being almost 100 years old, there is no historic preservation order on the property, and efforts to sell what was once Minnesota's most expensive estate have proved challenging over the last decade.

While the rest of the estate was split up and sold as separate lots, the Tudor-style mansion was still unsold entering the summer, listed at just under $8 million.

With the iconic property facing demolition, step forward Tim George, property owner and CEO of St. Paul-based wedding company, Bellagala.

In an email to Bring Me The News, George says instead of the mansion becoming another teardown, he wants to convert it into a wedding and corporate event venue.

The businessman runs three other wedding and event spaces in the Twin Cities, all of which he says were near demolition at one point.

This includes the 1892-built Van Dusen Mansion in Minneapolis and Bavaria Downs, the former Redmond Estate in Chaska, both of which George owns.

He also leases space in the A’BULAE building in St. Paul's Lowertown.

While currently living in Woodbury with his wife and three sons, George grew up in Orono and says he actually practiced tennis a few times on the courts at the Pillsbury estate.

George says he has reached out to city council about the possibility of saving the mansion, and hopes to present a proposal at a future council meeting.

"Our goal would be to preserve the estate while making it commercially viable as an event space," he told BMTN.

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The house is now listed as 'sold'

However, his efforts to save the building are facing some rather major obstacles in that he hasn't been able to contact the Jundts, and more crucially, the property has apparently been sold.

While no details have been released about why the owners are looking to demolish the building, George had heard that the property was under offer and that demolition was a requirement of the prospective buyers.

He admits that this speculation has not been confirmed, but the property is now listed as "sold" on the Coldwell Banker Burnet website.

BMTN reached out to the property's listing agent, Meredith Howell of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who said she might be able to provide some details later this week.

George said he actually inquired into the property back in February. Thinking that it was unlikely to sell so soon, he said he would circle back after completing renovations on the Redmond Estate.

"It probably goes without saying, but obviously I need to get in touch with the owners and arrangements would have to work out, along with City approval," he said of his efforts to save the building.

The Pillsbury estate initially hit the market over a decade ago, when it was listed for $53.5 million before being split up into five lots.

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