Pioneer Press | Minneapolis - St. Paul, Minnesota

St. Paul: Eastside / Asian center finds home

City, center reach deal on Hamm Brewery site

January 24, 2007

St. Paul is about to turn over a landmark of its past to a group of people who will play an important role in shaping its future.

Today, the city's Housing and Redevelopment Authority is expected to tentatively approve a plan to convert part of the former Hamm Brewery into an Asian Pacific Cultural Center.

It's a first step toward ending the city's years-long search for a tenant at the aging East Side campus and an equally long search by the cultural organization to find a home.

"This would serve as a resource for people who want to learn more about Asian Pacific cultures (and do it) in a fun way," said Naomi Chu, the cultural center's executive director.

Chu estimates there are 42 Asian cultures in Minnesota. Many Asians — Hmong in particular — have settled in St. Paul. Asians now vie with blacks as the city's largest minority group.

The center would occupy several buildings on the 9-acre, city-owned southern portion of the Hamm campus.

The brewery was founded in the 1850s as Pittsburgh Brewery before being sold to Theodore Hamm in 1864. The plant was brewing Stroh's when it closed in 1997.

The city bought the land in 2003 for $1.2 million to ensure its preservation, but adapting it for re-use has been a challenge.

When a plan to locate the Asian cultural center along University Avenue fell through, the two sides negotiated a deal that led to today's expected vote by the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which is governed by a board consisting of City Council members.

If realized, the center would include classrooms, offices, a theater, library, gallery, gift shop and banquet center. Preliminary cost estimates run from $12 million to $16 million, paid for through a combination of private donors and public financing. The state already has committed $400,000 to help with planning for the center.

The center would not open until 2011, though Chu said she hoped that's a conservative estimate.

In the decade since the brewery shut down, it has not aged gracefully. A 2005 fire destroyed part of the carpentry building, which dates to 1864. And a persistent water leak took its toll on the brewery's first power plant, which dates to 1883. Black mold now covers the interior, and even city staffers are loath to enter the place.

© 2007 Pioneer Press. All rights reserved.

linkPage 2 "...Asian center finds home"

linkPage 2 "....first Pan-Asian center in the nation"

linkPage 3 "....developing relationships with APCC, include"

linkPage 4 "...APCC's history"

linkPage 5 "...history of HAMM Brewery, APCC's future site home"

linkPage 6 "...more about the site"

      Copyright © 2008 Asian Pacific Cultural Center. All rights reserved.