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GreenStep City Best Practices Buildings and Lighting

Building Redevelopment
no. 5

Create economic and regulatory incentives for redevelopment and repurposing of existing buildings.
  Best Practice Action 3      [ 1 2 3 4 5 ]       [all actions]

Plan for reuse of large-format retail buildings, or work with a local school to either add-on space or repurpose space into non-school uses.

  • Known by different terms - big box abandonment, ghostboxes, greyfields - the reality of large empty building shells is not uncommon for cities. See many big-box reuse stories from around the country.
  • Ferndale, WA established, by ordinance, a three-pronged approach to retail development, including big-box stores, which includes a scorecard called EAGLE (Energy efficiency, Advanced technologies, Greater good, Low impact, Economic development).
  • The city's economic development talent and contacts can assist a school program, faced with declining enrollment, to remain in its building by leasing building space.
Describe the expansion/reuse of a school building.
Describe city actions that assisted in the expansion/reuse of a big-box building into uses other than large-format retail.
The expansion/reuse of a school or big-box was done with explicit attention to green building practices and/or to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Historic Rehabilitation.


Date action report first entered:   05/17/2016
Date of last report update:   05/17/2016

Implementation details:
Completed in 2015, the City Hall moved its location to the abandoned Northview Bank building in downtown. Instead of rebuilding, this city chose to reuse the existing structure because of the high index of abandoned space in the downtown area.

For more information contact:
Brett Collier (City staff)   |   bcollier@scicable.com   |   218-389-6814

View All Barnum Actions


Date action report first entered:   04/03/2018
Date of last report update:   04/03/2018
Action completed after joining GreenStep?   No

Implementation details:
Crookston repurposed an old school building into 11 apartment units. Crookston also has repurposed several buildings downtown into new businesses or places for new businesses to move in. For example, first floor of the Eagle Rexall Building, a historic building, was re-purposed for a new restaurant with assistance from the city. Also, the City assisted in the rehabilitation and repurposing of Historic Fournet Building for commercial space.

For more information contact:
Bryanna Grefthen (Community volunteer)   |   greft003@crk.umn.edu   |   2186868664

View All Crookston Actions


Date action report first entered:   09/07/2016
Date of last report update:   09/07/2016

Implementation details:
Reuse of a retail building - ISD 281 Adult Education entered into a long term lease for 40,000+ square feet of retail at the Crystal Shopping Center for its adult education and ECFE programs. The City approved the conditional use permit earlier this year and the ribbon-cutting was on September 1 in time for classes to start September 6. A charter school, Beacon Academy, received a conditional use permit to utilize a church (Cornerstone Church, 3420 Nevada) for a K-8 school. Their reuse also includes the addition of 10,000 square feet for additional classroom space. The groundbreaking was September 7 and the school anticipates moving in for the 2017-18 academic year.

For more information contact:
Anne Norris (City staff)   |   Anne.Norris@crystalmn.gov   |   763-531-1140

View All Crystal Actions

Fergus Falls

Date action report first entered:   01/14/2016
Date of last report update:   01/14/2016

Implementation details:
The Fergus Falls Parks and Recreation Department operates their administrative and recreation offices within Roosevelt School. LB Homes bought Eisenhower School from the Fergus Falls School District and has converted the building into their administrative office. Lakes Country Service Cooperative bought and remodeled the former Jefferson School as their main administrative offices building.

For more information contact:
Len Taylor (City staff)   |   len.taylor@ci.fergus-falls.mn.us   |   218-332-5418

View All Fergus Falls Actions

Grand Marais

Date action report first entered:   11/04/2015
Date of last report update:   11/04/2015

Implementation details:
A number of redevelopment projects renovated existing buildings rather than tearing down the building. The County/City incorporated (renovated) the old junior high gym into the new YMCA, which replaced the old community center and pool. This new/renovated facility serves multiple functions, including continuing to serve the school, and also providing community recreation facilities. The Northhouse Folk School, a popular non-profit located partially on city-owned land, re-purposed two previous forest service garages into workshop space and classrooms. WTIP repurposed the old outfitter building for a radio station. A local non-profit organization, Cook County Higher Education, converted a church into office and classrooms. The organization provides local access to higher education and on-line education services and host classes in a variety of professions to train local residents and enhance economic opportunity. They obtained an energy audit from GMPUC, identified a number of measures with attractive paybacks, then fund-raised on the basis of the audit and remodeled the building and made it much more energy efficient.

For more information contact:
Shane Steele (Contractor)   |   shane.w.steele@gmail.com   |   507-884-5790

YMCA; Northhouse Folk School; WTIP North Shore Community Radio; Cook County Higher Education

View All Grand Marais Actions


Date action report first entered:   07/25/2017
Date of last report update:   07/25/2017
Year action initially completed:   1995
Action completed after joining GreenStep?   No

Implementation details:
With consolidation of schools our school building was closed and now refurbished to include a community gym, 8 apartments, and a Senior Center. Currently the new pitched metal is being completed and the gym ceiling is getting new metal as soon as the roof is completed. These projects will be completed by the fall of 2017. One of our old buildings on Main Street is in the process of refurbishing it into a beauty salon and massage studio.

For more information contact:
Dianne Johnson (City staff)   |   heda@runestone.net   |   320-986-2448

USDA, Grant County Commissioners, Hoffman Lions, West Central Initiative

View All Hoffman Actions


Date action report first entered:   07/21/2015
Date of last report update:   07/21/2015

Implementation details:
A 36,000 square foot retail building was home to Alco (one of the first big box stores) and Running Fleet and Farm since 1979. It was empty for over four years as it was too small for modern big box retail and too big for the locally owned retail business. Brau Brothers, a regional brewery, started looking to relocate their brewery and considered Marshall as one of the candidate cities. The City of Marshall provided a $125,000 forgivable loan and another $125,000 low interest loan as a way to attract the business and make the most efficient use of the vacant property.

Outcome measures/metrics:
in 2013 Marshall secured the first ever brewery in Lyon County. The move for Brau Brothers allowed them to increase production from 5,000 barrels per year to over 25,000. The business contributes to the tax base of the community. Due to the rising popularity of craft breweries, Marshall has become a destination point for people that want tours or want to attend one of the many events that the brewery brings to town (e.g., concerts, etc.).

For more information contact:
Cal Brink (City staff)   |   calb@marshall-mn.org   |   507-337-0802

Marshall Chamber of Commerce; City of Marshall; Lyon County Economic Development

View All Marshall Actions


Date action report first entered:   02/29/2012

Implementation details:
Riverland Community College is renovating a large empty shop area into a large Austin Area Childcare Learning Center; something the City has needed for some time. At this time we are at the site drawings, scheduled for opening in 2013.

For more information contact:
Janet Anderson (Community volunteer)   |   janetanderson2840@gmail.com   |   5072190680

Riverland Community College

View All Austin Actions


Date action report first entered:   08/27/2014
Date of last report update:   05/19/2016

Implementation details:
Former Franklin Middle School has been repurposed by the Crossing Arts Alliance. It is now artists' residences, studio space and retail/ gallery space for the Arts community. The auditorium is used for various community purposes, including being used as a church for much of the week. A second school that has been sitting vacant has been sold by ISD 181 to a third party who performed updates for Energy Efficiency and ADA compliance and leased the building to a Montessori Charter School. A third school, Edison Elementary School, now hosts the Laestadian Lutheran Church of Brainerd. A fourth school, Washington High School, includes administrative offices as well as "Fun and Friends," a preschool and after school program, and the Kingsley School of Music. Finally, Lincoln Elementary School has been repurposed as an alternative learning center providing a safe and positive learning environment to help students become independent, contributing members to Brainerd's community. Additionally, a former Shopping Mall of 70s vintage has been repurposed into office space for Ascensus, a financial planning company- completed in 2010.

For more information contact:
Mark Ostgarden (City staff)   |   mostgarden@ci.brainerd.mn.us   |   218-828-2310

Crossing Arts Alliance

View All Brainerd Actions


Date action report first entered:   04/07/2014
Date of last report update:   04/28/2016

Implementation details:
Study was completed to repurpose the Community Center.

For more information contact:
Harold Langowski (City staff)   |   elyod@ely.mn.us   |   218-226-5474

View All Ely Actions


Date action report first entered:   04/25/2015
Date of last report update:   04/25/2015

Implementation details:
Currently, the Hermantown School District is transitioning out of their middle school building, into a new building located next to the high school. This leaves the middle school empty. Much of the building is outdated and unusable, but portions are newer, or in better condition, and good candidates for reuse. So, one wing of the building and the current gym will be reused with a new project to bring the pieces together to form an Arrowhead Regional Health and Wellness Center. Funding will come from county, city, state, as well as the YMCA.

            view file

For more information contact:
Adam Fulton (City staff)   |   afulton@hermantownmn.com   |   218-729-3618

View All Hermantown Actions


Date action report first entered:   12/18/2013

Implementation details:
Within the city there are two examples of educational spaces being utilized as both a school use and community space. The Lindbergh Center is a formed partnership between the City and the Hopkins School District. The facility has five basketball courts; eight regulation volleyball courts; 200 meter competitive running track; 300 meter walking/jogging track; and an exercising and conditioning room. The school district utilizes the Lindbergh Center for all district-related activities. Community members are also able to utilize the Lindbergh Center’s equipment, gym space and paths. The Arts Center on 7 is a multi-use arts center located within the Minnetonka High School. The arts center is used for Minnetonka student performances and for community choirs, bands, orchestras, group meetings and performances.

For more information contact:
Drew Ingvalson (City staff)   |   dingvalson@eminnetonka.com   |   952-939-8293

View All Minnetonka Actions

New Hope

Date action report first entered:   03/30/2015
Date of last report update:   11/19/2018
Action completed after joining GreenStep?   No

Implementation details:
New Hope Elementary School at 8301 47th Avenue North was repurposed as the New Hope Learning Center after the school closed. The building now houses offices for District 281 along with a medical facility for employees.

Descriptive links: https://www.ci.new-hope.mn.us/cms/one.aspx?portalid=9826709&pageid=12829174

For more information contact:
Jeff Alger (City staff)   |   jalger@ci.new-hope.mn.us   |   763-531-5119

District 281

View All New Hope Actions

Saint Anthony

Date action report first entered:   05/05/2011

Implementation details:
The City repurposed and reused several 1960 vintage buildings as part of the 2004 Public Works Facilty Improvement Project.

Outcome measures/metrics:
The City reduced it's waste footprint by reusing existing structures.

For more information contact:
Jay Hartman (City staff)   |   jay.hartman@ci.saint-anthony.mn.us   |   612-782-3314

View All Saint Anthony Actions

Silver Bay

Date action report first entered:   04/02/2014
Date of last report update:   05/12/2014

Implementation details:
Silver Bay has converted its old school that is no longer in use into an incubator for business development. Currently the space is being used by Wilderness Family Naturals, a local company that specializes in raw and organic food products.

For more information contact:
Lana Fralich (City staff)   |   lanaf@silverbay.com   |   218-226-4408

View All Silver Bay Actions

Albert Lea pending

Date action report first entered:   12/06/2018
Date of last report update:   12/06/2018
Year action initially completed:   2018
Action completed after joining GreenStep?   Yes

Implementation details:
The City of Albert Lea was awarded a grant through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency that will be used for repurposing a school.

Outcome measures/metrics:
12 housing units are expected to be completed as part of this project.

Descriptive links: https://www.kimt.com/content/news/City-of-Albert-Lea-to-renovate-former-Ramsey-School-into-apartments-485891591.html

For more information contact:
Jerry Gabrielatos (City staff)   |   jgabrielatos@ci.albertlea.mn.us   |   507-377-4316

Schoolhouse LLC

View All Albert Lea Actions

Red Wing pending

Date action report first entered:   01/30/2013

Implementation details:
Planning is underway with the Red Wing School District to add-on to the Elementary schools.

For more information contact:
Paul Drotos (City staff)   |   paul.drotos@ci.red-wing.mn.us   |   651-410-6744

View All Red Wing Actions

Rochester pending

Date action report first entered:   06/14/2011

Implementation details:
School buildings qualify for the adaptive reuse provisions noted above.

For more information contact:
Jeff Ellerbusch (City staff)   |   ellerbusch.jeff@CO.OLMSTED.MN.US   |   507-328-7132

View All Rochester Actions

pending means a star rating has not yet been assigned to this city

greenstep advisor
Erin Hanafin Berg, Director of Outreach & Policy, Preservation Alliance of Minnesota: 651-293-9047, ehberg@mnpreservation.org, http://www.mnpreservation.org