Block by Block

Minnesota Hotel at 322 NW 5th Avenue

By Tyler Graf

It’s no longer a hotel, and it’s certainly not located in Minnesota. Instead, the Minnesota Hotel is a historic office building located in Old Town.

It’s now managed by Venerable Properties, which specializes in the redevelopment of historically significant buildings that have been neglected (the recently completed White Stag Block is perhaps Venerable’s crown jewel).

Built in 1909, the Minnesota Hotel operated as a small hotel for decades. In 1994, it was the first building Venerable Properties renovated into office space.

It was not an easy renovation for a nascent company to tackle, said Craig Kelly, who’s handled leasing for Venerable since 1994. The building had been completely deserted and was then what Kelly called a “rat’s next of cubbyhole offices.” The third floor, in fact, had not seen a tenant since the 1950s.

“It was pigeon heaven up there,” Kelly said. “I can’t even say how many carcasses came out of there.”

Once the building as renovated, it became the first home office for Venerable Properties. Old Town was different at that time, Kelly said — empty, crusty and considered dangerous.

But the district changed. And through the years, buildings like the Minnesota Hotel, now on the National Register of Historic Places, have attracted creative tenants of all stripes.

The current anchor tenant of the building, SERA Architects, is also the firm that in 2004 performed the second redesign of the building. With the renovation complete, the firm started leasing about 20,000 square feet of space in the building on the first and second fllors.

New features for the building, added during the renovation, include exposed brick and wood beams, and a wide open floor plan. There isn’t much space currently available–only 310 sq ft on the third floor, which goes for $410 a month with utilities included.

Kelly believes that the improved attractiveness of the area has drawn tenants to the building.

I have a wife and kids, and in 1994 I didn’t want to come down here,” Kelly said. “Now, I wouldn’t think twice about bringing them down here–not twice.”

“Block by Block” is a weekly look at Portland commercial real estate at a microcosmic level. Each week, one city block’s history and future — from recent leasing activity to available space — is examined.