Sears Building, 900 E Lake Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota
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Sears, Roebuck & Company / Midtown Exchange
|Address:||900 Lake Street E|
|Neighborhood/s:||Phillips, Minneapolis, Minnesota|
|Hennepin County, Minnesota|
|Primary Style:||Art Deco/Art Moderne|
|Additions:||1929, 1964 (demolished), 1979|
|Historic Function:||Department store|
|Architect or source of design:||Nimmons, Carr and Wright (Chicago)|
|Material of Exterior Wall Covering:||Brick|
|Material of Foundation:||Concrete|
|First Owner:||Sears, Roebuck & Company|
Throughout its 80-year history, the Sears building has been a focal point in the community because of its physical size, and the economic and social impact it had on the area. 40 homes were razed to build it in 1928 at a cost of $5 million. It took less than a year to build it without any public subsidies.
At any one time the store employed nearly 2000 workers as a retail store and one of Sear's nine regional catalog centers. In 1994, Sears, Roebuck and Company left the neighborhood. The company began to focus on its store at Mall of America to access suburban families with higher incomes and people who were used to shopping at malls. Ex-workers and residents in the area were shocked and saddened as they watched their neighborhoods economically decline and as the building remained boarded up and vacant for a decade.Finally, a coalition of business, community, government, and nonprofit groups stepped up to the challenge. Ryan Companies spent over $192 to redevelop the 1.2 million square foot building. In June 2006, the Sears building opened again, this time housing the Midtown Global Market--providing food, produce and merchandise, Allina Hospitals and Clinics, and a mixture of market and affordable housing, a hotel, and government services in an attempt to serve the local community and attract people back to Lake Street.
“Absolute Satisfaction or Your Money Back”: The History, Memory and Redevelopment of Sears
Throughout its nearly 80-year history the Sears building located on Lake Street and Elliot Avenue has been a focal point for the surrounding community. Opened in March of 1928 the building served as both a mail order and retail store. At any one time the store employed nearly 2000 workers, performing a wide range of jobs. While the store remained strong throughout the 1950s and 1960s, as early as the late 1970s, Sears, Roebuck & Co. began major restructuring efforts and began moving operations to the Chicago store. As the Lake Street Sears began to decline so did the surrounding neighborhood, becoming vulnerable to crime, drugs, and urban decline. The official closure of the store in 1994 left many ex-workers and neighborhood residents saddened and in shock.
Sears Closes Its Doors
After years of rumors and speculation Sears on Lake Street finally closed its doors on Dec. 31 1994. While the closure was not a complete shock to residents and employees, it still made waves in the Lake Street community. “The neighborhood’s coming down, but it’s a shame anyway” stated John Foster a long time Sears employee. After 66 years of serving the area, Sears, Roebuck & Co. no longer viewed the Lake Street branch as a profitable one, and moved the store to the Mall of America. The company targeted families with incomes of $25,000 to $60,000. Minneapolis’ average household income barely topped $25,000, with Phillips sitting at half of that amount. Sears had followed the money and left the mammoth building vacant in a community where crime and poverty were steadily increasing. Put “workers memories” flipbook near here
Redevelopment Revitalization and Rebirth
For nearly a decade the Sears building remained boarded up and vacant despite significant interest in the site for redevelopment use. Promises of potential buyers littered newspapers but each deal seemed to fall through. For a time there was serious talk of tearing down the Sears building and starting from scratch. In the end Ryan Companies took the bid to redevelop the site into a mixed-use building that would serve both as way to meet community housing issues, but also to attract people back to the Lake Street community.
Opened in June of 2006 the Sears building now is home to the Midtown Global Market, Allina Hospitals, a mixture of high-end and affordable houses and a hotel. The Global Market situated on what was once the retail floor of Sears, provides the neighborhood and incoming visitors with a wide range of ethnic food, produce and merchandise. The entire project cost $192 million with some federal support due to the buildings historic preservation needs. While the site is still new to the community, its success is integral to the revitalization of both the Phillips neighborhood and the Lake Street community.
Memories and stories
In the 60's and 70's my mother, raised in the Depression, was one of those women who would drive 10 miles to save 5 cents on a can of beans. So even though she was a St. Paulite, it wasn't unusual for her to cross the river to Kaplan's on Franklin Ave. or to Sears on Lake Street to buy clothes at a discount price. I remember driving up to Sears and thinking we had reached the Emerald City because of the green neon sign and the building that loomed up to the clouds. With 5 small children in tow, my mother would navigate the sale racks and swat us when we started knocking them over in our game of hide 'n seek.
I ate lunch in the Midtown Global Market recently. I could still remember where the dress department was situated.
I miss the green neon sign.
... Ruby Rose Wilson, St. Paul
My father was a sheet metal journeyman. He lived in Mpls from 1948 until his death in 1971. Saturday mornings were most often a trip with "our Dad" to Sears & Roebuck. It was never just Sears to him. It was always Sears & Roebuck. We always parked in the east parking lot; across the street, and entered where the appliances were. I remember being fascinated with the dishwasher with the clear door, and visible water splashing all over inside. I wanted one in our house so bad. My father said, "No, we have one." A dishwasher that is, it was me. I was 8 at the time, and it was my job. Besides the tools, my father was usually shopping for, "duct work". I was an adult before I realized it was "duct" not duck. As a young girl, I couldn't understand why my father called the furnace piping duck work. Everyone remembers the POPCORN from Sears & Roebuck. We always came home with popcorn. I also remember the dress department, and Sears Toughskins, for my little brother. I remember, it was a few steps up, out of the TOOL department and into the TOY department. Those steps seemed to set it off and make it an extra special place. I was also an adult before I realized that there was a fancy front entrance to the building.
Scott Moore's Documentary on the Sears building is available at Minneapolis Public Library.
Building at a crossroads DVD
produced and directed by Scott Moore.
[Minneapolis, Minn.]Happy Accident Productions
[Saint Paul, Minn.] : Twin Cities Public Television, c2006.