Brook Avenue Co-op and Maya Commons

Project Location: 1220 Brook Avenue SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

Nominated by: Project for Pride in Living

Two nonprofits collaborated to create Brook Avenue Co-Op and Maya Commons: two separate living areas joined by a common space with sustainable design elements on the site of the former Bunge grain elevator. Maya Commons contains 50 units of affordable housing, and Brook Avenue Co-op is a 95-unit student housing cooperative. The shared community space within the former grain elevator headhouse tower building is the world’s largest Peace Pole, an internationally recognized symbol of peace.

The former Bunge grain elevator and surrounding area was used for industrial purpose from the 1890s until 2002. The Bunge facility was built for loading and unloading grain for shipment on the adjacent railroad. The 1930s elevator tower stands approximately 20 stories high. Former structures on the site included 12-story concrete silos, a power plant, a transformer, a coal house, a railroad, and storage sheds. The tower and silos, vacant for 16 years, were unusable. Debris, broken windows, and graffiti were present throughout. The buildings posed a clear threat to public health; over the years since the site’s vacancy, tragically two young people lost their lives entering the dilapidated structures. Project for Pride in Living acquired the property in 2006, and completed initial partial remediation including removal of approximately 5,000 tons of contaminated soil and asbestos abatement. PPL owned the property for over ten years, however, the lack of a feasible plan for the silos and tower, and the lack of a viable project partner proved to be a barrier.

The existing structures became a major challenge at the site. The site experienced many break-ins during remediation, sometimes resulting in accidents. The structures were also a hazard to those working on the site, making it difficult to conduct surveys and investigations. To begin work, significant safety measures including covering open holes in the floors, pumping out contaminated water pooled within the structures, as well as implementing fall protection and confined space precautions were required. The limited space on the site and nearby residences required a complex demolition plan. The silos were removed piece by piece and inspected frequently to ensure no additional asbestos or hazardous building materials were uncovered. Soil contamination at the site included PAHs, carbon tetrachloride, mercury and petroleum, in addition to the hazardous debris. Within the remaining structures, aggressive lead and asbestos abatement utilizing more than one technique occurred to ensure compliance. Ultimately, the entire site including reused structures and green spaces was cleaned to residential standards.

Now the site is a testament to collaboration and community. Thanks to extensive communication with the Minneapolis City Council and local neighborhood groups, the project has strong community support. Sustainable features were incorporated into the design including energy efficiency, water conservation measures, native prairie plantings, transit-oriented features, and 20% non-paved open space for resident use through site-scaping. This redevelopment transformed a blighted, hazardous and unsafe property into an affordable, community hub for use by students and residents with the world’s largest peace pole emphasizing peace, mindfulness, wellness and art.

Project Financing

  • Low Income Housing Tax Credit Equity
  • Hennepin County AHIF
  • Met Council LHIA
  • City of Minneapolis AHTF
  • Bond Proceeds/1st Mortgage
  • Met Council TBRA
  • Hennepin County ERF
  • Hennepin County Recycling Grant

Project Partners

  • Project for Pride in Living, Inc. (Owner and Developer)
  • Riverton Community Housing (Owner)
  • Urbanworks Architecture, LLC (Architect)
  • BKBM (Civil Engineer)
  • Landmark Environmental, LLC (Environmental Engineer)
  • Frana Construction (General Contractor)
  • Rachel Contracting (Demolition, Contaminated Soil, Site Work)
  • Pace Analytical (Laboratory Analysis)
  • Pladsen Environmental (Asbestos and Pigeon and Animal Feces Abatement)
  • Mavo Systems (Lead Paint Abatement)
  • VCI Environmental (Lead Dust Abatement)
  • Minnesota Brownfields (Assessment, Investigation, Hazmat Survey Grants)
  • Hennepin County (Cleanup Grants)
  • Metropolitan Council (Cleanup Grants)
  • City of Minneapolis (City)
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (Environmental Regulatory Agency)