Mpls. denies request to demolish historic grain elevator owners say is dangerous

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The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission has voted to deny a request to demolish a grain elevator its owners say poses a risk to the public.

Riverland Ag Corp, which owns the Electric Steel Elevator property at 600 25th Ave. SE, has asked the city for permission to demolish all the buildings on the property, saying demolition is the "only viable option" to prevent people from trespassing and climbing around inside the 104-year-old elevator, the City Staff Report says.

"Urban exploring" has become increasingly popular in Minneapolis' abandoned grain elevators over the years, but when people who aren't properly equipped climb around inside the elevators, they risk harming themselves.

And despite efforts from property owners to prevent explorers from getting inside, they're still trespassing. Last month, a University of Minnesota college student died after falling inside an abandoned grain elevator. A few weeks later, a man was seriously injured after a fall at another Twin Cities site.

Riverland Ag says it has spent thousands of dollars since the grain elevator ceased operations in 2013 to increase security measures (adding barbed-wire fences with mesh steel grates, locking and caging safety ladders, putting up "no trespassing" signs and installing of video cameras), but people are still exploring, the City Staff Report says, noting it's only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured or killed.

In the report, Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development staff recommended the commission deny the application to demolish the property, saying just because it is no longer in use does not alone "equate to an unsafe or dangerous condition," noting additional security is a potential alternative.

The Historical Preservation Commission agreed, voting to deny the permit to demolish the "historic resource," and instead establish interim protection and direct the planning director to prepare a study into designating the building as a historic landmark.

The Prospect Park Association has also voted against demolishing the historic elevator, KSTP reports.

Riverland Ag is expected to appeal the commission's decision, KSTP notes.

In the report, Riverland Ag notes it has tried to find ways to repurpose the building, but failed. So it made plans to demolish all the buildings on the property and sell it to the University of Minnesota to be used for future development, the report notes. The site is located nearby TCF Bank Stadium.

The U of M has agreed to buy the land for $1.45 million, plus reimburse Riverland Ag for demolition costs estimated at more than $500,000.

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