MOORHEAD - A piece of Moorhead’s history is ready to be a place to call home.
The Simon Warehouse Lofts - 65 apartments created at the nearly century-old Moorhead Storage and Transfer Co. warehouse - will be having renters move in as soon as a certificate of occupancy is issued..
“I’m happy with the way it turned out. I think it turned out in many ways better than we thought it would,” architect and developer Kevin Batram said Monday, May 11.
Bartram and two others spent about $8 million turning the former potato warehouse and storage family into a people place, creating a variety of apartments offering an urban vibe, with exposed brick and brawny wooden beams and joists.
The renovation and repurposing was done with an eye to maintaining the historic look of 1010 Center Ave., which is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
The 84,000-square-foot building, built in 1922, didn’t allow for a cookie-cutter project given the restrictions of the historic designation. It ended up being more of a game of Tetris. But Bartram likes the way the pieces fit together.
“There’s a lot of variety, unique floor plans. … Out of 65 units, there’s probably about 35 different floor plans in the building,” Bartram said.
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When Simon Warehouse Lofts comes online, Moorhead will have tallied 162 new apartments downtown since mid-2018, when city officials set a goal of seeing 500 new downtown housing units created, said Lisa Bode, the city’s governmental affairs director.
The Block E apartments on the corner of Eighth Street and Main Avenue kicked things off with 12 units, followed by 45 units at 9Thirteen Lofts just west of Hornbacher’s, and 39 units in the third phase of The Grove Apartments on First Avenue North, Bode said. There is also one apartment above Swing Barrel Brewing on Center Avenue.
“We love seeing the Simon Warehouse restored and repurposed. It’s maintained its historical integrity. We can’t wait to see the inside,” Bode said.
Derrick LaPoint, president and CEO of Downtown Moorhead Inc., said the transformed warehouse is a “catalyst project to the downtown.”
“We’re excited about it. It looks fantastic. It gives a different feel” to apartment living, LaPoint said.
The warehouse has a raised basement and three levels above that.
Renters can choose from one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, some of them built on two levels. The largest apartment, one of 11 three bedroom and two bath units, is 1,832 square feet, Property Manager Colleen Kurtti said.
Nearly all of the apartments have one or more bare brick or concrete walls, and the huge wooden support timbers and beams that held the building up for nearly a century are present throughout. Each apartment has a unique mix of features that gives them their own character.
“The aesthetic is very unique for the area,” Kurtti said. “Everything is just a bit different. It’s very residential. It’s more of a condominium feeling than an apartment feeling.”
The area where the old freight elevator used to be has been turned into a community room, with a galvanized roll-up garage door that can be used to open up the room or keep it separated from the rest of the living spaces. Doors for several of the north side apartments lead out to the north facing loading dock turned patio area, next to one of the two sets of railroad tracks running through downtown.
Construction Manager Dan Huffman said keeping the historic look was a construction challenge.
There could be no through-wall penetration of electrical, plumbing or HVAC systems. The building’s massive support columns also had to remain visible.
The mechanical challenges included building 77 basement-to-roof chases (framed and enclosed spaces for exhaust and fresh air movement).
Rather than redo the building from the top to the bottom as is typical, it had to be revamped from the basement up, Huffman said. It was also labor intensive. At one point, Huffman counted 68 tradespeople working in the building at the same time.
All of the original frames were kept, Huffman said. Asbestos that was part of the windows was removed and new glass was added.
The windows were kept single-pane to maintain historic accuracy. To save energy, magnetic inside storm windows are added inside to provide an air insulating barrier when the air turns cold, Huffman said.
“It’s been a fun project. It turned out really nice," Huffman said.
For much of its early life, the warehouse had held potatoes until they could be marketed.
In the late 1960s, the building was purchased by furniture dealers Jack and Leon Simon, who offered public rental storage, according to research by archivist Mark Peihl of the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County. That's how the Simon Warehouse name developed.
Bartram has been instrumental in saving other historic buildings in downtown Moorhead, including the 1898 Kassenborg Block along Main Avenue, which houses businesses and apartments, and the 1873 James Douglas House, home to a hair salon, just behind the Kassenborg building.
Bartram also plans to turn the city's first Minnesota National Guard armory, which stands just to the west of the warehouse lofts, into a $4 million events center.
He envisions the armory, which has been home to a couple of car dealerships in previous lives, as a great place to host weddings, concerts and other large gatherings. Work there is ongoing.
As for the warehouse rehab, Bartram said that project has been worth it, even if it has taken a a few months longer to finish than he had expected.
“Just the unique character of a building like this, it’s hard to find. Hopefully, people will like it and enjoy living there,” Bartram said.