Pioneer Press | Minneapolis - St. Paul, Minnesota

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January 24, 2007

As part of the plan, the power plant and another building would be torn down, something that could lead to protests from neighbors who want to see all aspects of the brewery preserved.

"It will create some discussion and some concern, (but) I think everybody is concerned about a constructive and viable reuse plan," said Carol Carey, head of Historic St. Paul and a member of a task force that came up with a plan to reuse the brewery.

Council President Kathy Lantry, whose ward includes the brewery, said she hoped people would be open to the idea.

"If we talk about (demolishing) something where we have a good reason to do so, then people are much more open to it," Lantry said, adding that she understands how attached some neighbors are to the brewery.

The plan would preserve the brewery's western elevation, and its distinctive assemblage of arched windows and false windows. And there is hope that the cultural center would inspire others — possibly even housing developers — to take a closer look at reusing the rest of the property.

"It could really be a great use for that building. I'm intrigued," Carey said. "It opens up some new doors and some new opportunities to bring in new tenants."

Real estate developer Howard Gelb, who has recruited a number of businesses while keeping much of the property intact, owns the portion of the brewery north of Minnehaha. Some glass-lined tanks in an old tank house have been sold to a Canadian beer-maker, Gelb said, and that building likely will be razed once the tanks have been removed.

Hamm's is one of the city's two remaining bookends of a bygone era that, between them, hold many of the stories of the city's beer-making past. Each one seems to reflect their neighborhoods as well.

The artsy Schmidt Brewery, its main tower topped with castle-like parapets, mirrors the eclecticism of its West Seventh Street neighborhood. An East Coast suitor recently announced plans to purchase the brewery, possibly turning it into a mixed-use village.

On the other hand, Hamm's mirrors the East Side. Its buildings look more utilitarian, turning Minnehaha Avenue into a small canyon where the brewery's red brick edifices loom above the street. Furthermore, parts of the Hamm Brewery already have been back put to work. Gelb said his tenants on the northern part of the brewery employ 350 people.

Jason Hoppin can be reached at or 651-292-1892.

© 2007 Pioneer Press. All rights reserved.

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