Now home to over 200 residential units, Schmidt Artist Lofts in St. Paul, MN, has a history that dates back to 1855.
That’s when the original structure at 900 W. 7th Street was first constructed to serve a different brewery, Christopher Stahlmann’s Brewing Co. The building’s distinctive characteristic at the time was its half-mile underground lagering cave; its presence led to many referring to the company as the Cave Brewery.
Stahlmann’s Brewing Co. ceased operations in 1898 – but the building didn’t remain vacant for long. Two years later, Bavarian brewer Jacob Schmidt bought the property with plans for a brewery of his own.
As part of a major overhaul of the original structure, Schmidt enlisted Chicago-based architect Bernard Barthel to lead design efforts, adding its now-iconic flourishes of Gothic-style architecture and greatly expanding the brewery’s facilities.
Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co. would operate within the new 16-acre campus for around ninety years, surviving the Prohibition era, the Great Depression, and even being purchased by Detroit’s Pfeiffer Brewing Co. in 1954.
The brewery finally met its end in 1990, as the Schmidt brand was sold off and its property was purchased by yet another brewery. Minnesota Brewing Co. took over the facility, but it soon shifted its focus toward ethanol production. The Gopher State Ethanol Company, as it came to be known, lasted until the early 2000s when a combination of financial and legal difficulties forced it out of business.
The property would sit vacant for around a decade before Plymouth, MN-based developer Dominium entered discussions to purchase it in 2011. The company had previously redeveloped the historic Metropolitan Building in St. Louis, MO.
Dominium initiated plans to convert the majority of the old brewery into affordable multifamily lofts – similar to what it did with the Metropolitan Building. BKV Group handled the architecture for the redevelopment with assistance from historic preservation architects MacDonald & Mack.
The project was initially estimated at $95 million but ultimately cost $130 million to complete. Included in the project was the restoration of the original Schmidt brewery signage.
The city of St. Paul provided $70 million in tax-exempt bonds to facilitate the project.
Schmidt Artist Lofts debuted in July 2014 with 247 affordable housing units ranging in size from studio to three-bedroom. Dominium also built 13 townhomes on an adjacent lot.
The Schmidt Brewing Co. redevelopment project received the 2016 Affordable Housing Design Award from AIA Minnesota and has gone on to become a launching point for the revitalization of St. Paul’s West Seventh neighborhood.