Originally Published on Aug. 27, 2021By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A years-long historic renovation of a Twin Cities landmark is finally complete. The Oaklands on 9th — the first apartment building ever built in Minneapolis — sits in the shadow of the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis.

When tearing it down seemed like a foregone conclusion, a developer stepped in and the community stepped up. Dozens of developers said no to fixing up the structure, but now — two years and $1.5 million later — the Oaklands on 9th have yet another new lease on life.

“When we first started inspectors wouldn’t even come into the building because it smelled so bad,” owner John Kistler said.

The building actually predates electricity. The 1889 building has survived four fires, years without a roof, and ultimately, the wrecking ball. It’s a majestic throwback to a simpler time.

Donated pieces from people who heard about the project are sprinkled around the 24-unit building. Original pieces like a mahogany vestibule really stand out, but it took a while to get to them. The entry way was covered under 30-plus layers of paint.

The original ceramic tiles chosen by architect Harry Wild Jones were hidden under no fewer than five layers of flooring.

Will Wagner was there every day breathing life into the old building.

“It warms your heart knowing that I was such a big part of a project that saved part of history,” he said.

Independent contractors helped cut costs, but city support was key. City code exceptions along the way made the project feasible.

“Lisa Goodman not only saved this building, but she has saved hundreds of buildings in the time she was a City Councilperson,” Kistler said.

The hundreds of volunteers who stopped by to paint a wall, tile a floor, bring a meal to the crew, or just to admire, truly made it shine.

“Sometimes people come flying by on scooters and then stop and just take a picture. It’s just unexpected,” Kistler said. “This is going to be here in Minneapolis, serving Minneapolis for another 150 years. That’s incredible.”

People moved in this month, and a chunk of the rooms are now vacation rentals, so if you want to stay inside a piece of Minneapolis history, you can.

 

Erin Hassanzadeh