State historic preservation awards have Willmar connection
WILLMAR -- Two winners of state historic preservation awards this year have Willmar connections. They are Engan Associates, an architectural and interior design firm, and Willmar Downtown Development, formerly known as Willmar Design Center.
WILLMAR - Two winners of state historic preservation awards this year have Willmar connections. They are Engan Associates, an architectural and interior design firm, and Willmar Downtown Development, formerly known as Willmar Design Center.
The awards were presented during the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota gala Sept. 25 at the restored Union Depot in St. Paul. The alliance is a statewide nonprofit organization advocating on behalf of Minnesota’s historic resources.
Engan Associates participates in New Ulm project
Engan Associates and other contractors and consultants participated in the restoration and rehabilitation of the former Grand Hotel, now known as the Grand Center for Arts and Culture in New Ulm.
The consultants and contractors undertook a three-year restoration and rehabilitation of the former hotel that had fallen into disrepair.
The project was originated by two great-great-great-grandchildren of the first building owner, German immigrant Phillip H. Gross.
Gross originally built a room-and-board house called the Minnesota Haus in 1856. The building burned to the ground soon after and Gross built a larger structure called the Union Hotel. It also burned and Gross constructed the present Grand Hotel structure in 1875.
For many years, the hotel was the major gathering place for visitors coming to New Ulm, Richard Engan said. But when local rail passenger service ended and much of the patronage was lost, the hotel fell into decline.
In 2000, the fifth-generation descendants of Phillip H. Gross bought the property and realized that public ownership as an arts and cultural center was the best way to preserve the building and create an invaluable asset in the community.
A nonprofit board was formed, and funding and assistance for the project was obtained using historic tax credits and other sources.
Engan said he and his staff are proud of achieving the award and assisted in various ways on the project.
“Our strength is the diversity of people we have,’’ Engan said. “We have people who look at the big picture. We have detail people that work on details; management people, design, all of the different aspects because you need to have all these different strengths to be successful and you normally do not find them in one individual.’’
Willmar Downtown Development honored for national accreditation
Willmar Downtown Development was honored for achieving national accreditation in 2013 by the National Trust Main Street Center after receiving evaluation by Minnesota Main Street, a program under the umbrella of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.
Willmar Downtown Development was recognized for its downtown revitalization efforts by becoming Minnesota’s first nationally accredited Main Street program. This distinction recognizes meeting national standards and utilizing the Main Street Four Point Approach to commercial revitalization.
The National Main Street program promotes national standards of performance for established Main Street programs, and annual accreditation for programs meeting all of the standards.
The Preservation Alliance says Willmar Downtown Development brings a great deal of activity to the area in the form of weekly outdoor markets, annual parades, outdoor art festivals, and block parties.
Visitors can discover many of the historic buildings within Willmar’s Main Street district by following one of the three different measured walking paths in the area.
Willmar Downtown Development formed a partnership earlier this year with the Preservation Alliance to purchase and renovate the former Barn Shed, now known as Historic 313 Fourth Street. The 8,000-square-foot space will become local food-related businesses, including a regional food hub with full commercial kitchen and wine bar, incubator kitchens, retail store for local food and Foxhole Brewhouse, a locally owned producer of craft beers.