Hillcrest swaps buildings with St. Paul church.


Byline: William Morris

Hillcrest Development Managing Partner Scott Tankenoff sees an opportunity at 641 Fairview Ave. N in St. Paul: a prime property in a booming neighborhood that could be a magnet to office and commercial users.

The office-warehouse building on the site, built in the 1940s and '50s, offers nearly 340,000 square feet for what Minneapolis-based Hillcrest is branding the "Fairview Business Center." The site has ready access to transit, including the Fairview Avenue light rail station several blocks south on University Avenue, and the surrounding Midway neighborhood is seeing a wave of development such as the expansion of the nearby Menard's store.

"We look at this as a neighborhood on the rise. It's in demand," Tankenoff said in an interview. "It's in demand from the standpoint of all different property uses."

The building has long been owned by Living Word Church and World Outreach Ministry, which met in a portion of the building and leased out portions of the rest. Senior Pastor Lesley Ford said his church also sees an opportunity for a new home in a Hillcrest-owned building at 3255 Spring St. NE in Minneapolis.

"It's a perfect location, and it'll give us a perfect chance, instead of managing debt, to start building the kingdom of God again," Ford said in an interview.

On Monday, the two parties each got what they wanted. Minneapolis-based Hillcrest and Living Word Church closed on a deal for Hillcrest to acquire the church's St. Paul building in a swap for the Spring Street building in northeast Minneapolis. Living Word plans to convert the 61,800-square-foot flex office building into a new church, complete with sanctuary, offices and education space.

No certificates of real estate value for the sales were available as of Wednesday, but Ford said the church sold the Fairview building for $6.4 million and bought the Spring Street building for $3.4 million.

The Fairview building has not seen much investment in the past few decades, Tankenoff said, and needs considerable work, including at least several million dollars in asbestos abatement, roof repairs, heating and electrical work, bathrooms, new windows, lighting and parking lot fixes. State and Metropolitan Council grants will help cover some of Hillcrest's expenses.

Several existing tenants, including Element Gym, are being moved to new spots in the building as part of the renovation. Having closed the deal, Hillcrest is wasting no time, and Tankenoff hopes to...

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