Historic Name: The Municipal Light and Water Plant of the City of Austin
Location: Austin, Minnesota
Client: Gronen Properties
Project Date: 2013
Project Scope: Research and Historic Consulting
Est. Project Cost: $22 million
The Municipal Light and Water Plant of the City of Austin (Austin Power Plant) is an iconic property located on the Cedar River in the center of Austin, Minnesota. The plant provided electricity and water to the city for the majority of the 20th century. It is not only a prominent cornerstone in the history of the city, but also potentially a major economic development opportunity for a small community. PVN worked with a private developer, Gronen Properties of Dubuque, Iowa, to determine the feasibility of this industrial site for redevelopment for retail and multi-family housing. The economic viability of this project depended on access to Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits, which are only available to properties eligible for, or already listed in, the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
PVN provided a phased approach to match the overall project in terms of timing and investment of resources. The first step consisted of a preliminary analysis of the property’s potential historic significance and current integrity. This allowed the client to make a small initial investment while the uncertainty regarding the viability of the site for redevelopment was high. PVN determined that the site may be eligible for listing in the National Register and accessing preservation-related funding sources.
Industrial sites are challenging preservation projects. The sites are usually large, and often with little noticeable architectural significance. Multiple changes or additions over time to the buildings, which may have been necessary to remain successful as an industrial facility, typically obscure historic features. PVN utilized sources from local and county archives, including historic photographs, census data, annual reports, and historic news articles to establish that the site is significant on the local level for its association with the development of the City of Austin. Furthermore, developments at the site reflected state and national trends in the establishment, ownership, and management of utilities by local municipalities.
The Austin Power Plant was determined to be eligible for the NRHP - making redevelopment possible. PVN’s unique business model combining preservation design with historical research and consulting provides a high value to challenging redevelopment projects like the Austin Power Plant.