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MINNEAPOLIS-Construction is under way on Mill City Museum, a $24-million project coming to the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis.

The nine-story project preserves the ruins of a National Historic Landmark–the Washburn Crosby A Mill Ruin. Located in the heart of the Mills District between Second Street and the West River Parkway, the museum will combine new construction with adaptive reuse of the historic mill, with a focus on flour milling, water power and regional history. The project will be completed in late 2002.

The building’s top five floors will be developed into offices by Brighton Development, which has also built loft housing in the revitalized neighborhood. Brighton proposes to develop 62,000 sf of office space and possibly an event center above what will be the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Center and Museum. Plans also include 500 underground and 330 surface parking spaces for the Heritage Museum and commercial space. Sheehy Construction Co. of St. Paul is the general contractor.

The Minneapolis-based architectural firm of Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle has designed the museum. The architect is using what’s left of the mill after devastating fires and tries to recreate what was there during the heyday of milling in Minneapolis. The project also tries to take advantage of its riverfront location as well as evoke the importance of railroads. On the museum’s third floor, a boxcar, original loading dock and rail corridor will show how grain was unloaded and how the flour that created worldwide fame for Minneapolis was loaded for shipment. Architect Tom Meyer has left intact as many features of the original mill as possible, including flour bins, milling machinery, the engine house, rail corridor and wheat house. “Views of other mills, grain elevators, rail lines, downtown and the waterfalls are revealed and framed within the new building,” Meyer says.

The $24-million budget includes construction, equipment, exhibits and program development. The project is on solid financial ground with a combination of state, federal and private donations now totaling nearly $23 million. Fund-raising efforts continue to attract enthusiastic support. Operation of the site will benefit from an additional $4 million that the sponsoring society is seeking to raise as an endowment.

Major public funding has come from the state and federal government, including a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant, a “Save America’s Treasures” program grant, and TEA-21 funding from the transportation department. Private sector gifts of $1 million or more have come from a variety of donors and foundations.

In conjunction, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is developing Mill Ruins Park, highlighting the district’s history through exposed foundations and reconstructed raceways.

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