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A challenging historic house leads to new housing

"MCTC was bequeathed the historic Wells Center in 1996. While always grateful for gifts, MCTC was not well-positioned to manage this historic asset. When nothing looks promising for a challenging historic property, I recommend turning to New History."

- Mike Christenson, Former Vice President, Minneapolis Community and Technical College

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Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC)


2013 - 2022

Project planning and management, reuse strategy, condition assessment, assessment of reuse feasibility, city preservation approvals, State of Minnesota Historic Sites Act approvals (Section 138), Minnesota Historic Property Record (MHPR), review of construction plans for impact on adjacent campus and buildings

80+ housing units in the historic mansion and connected new construction

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Both public and private tools are needed to make challenging reuse projects possible.


The former Wells Family College Center on the MCTC campus is an iconic Richardsonian Romanesque building. The building, also called the historic H. Alden Smith House, was designed for its namesake in 1887 by noted local architect William Channing Whitney. The Wells Family Center was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and is a designated Minneapolis landmark. MCTC was gifted the Wells Family Center in 1996, but was not well-positioned to manage the building, and the historic character made the structure incompatible with state mandated classroom and office standards.


New History worked closely with the State of Minnesota, City of Minneapolis, and developer to make a reuse possible. New History’s first phase of work included updating previous condition assessments to reflect current conditions, compiling and analyzing current operational costs, and developing cost estimates for immediate masonry and roof stabilization – which led to the decision to look at alternative uses for the building. In order to develop a financially viable reuse, New History explored a variety of partnerships and ultimately the transfer of the building to private ownership. New History led the process of representing the State of Minnesota as the current owner, the identification of a qualified private developer, and the transfer of the property through the City of Minneapolis to private ownership. The historic mansion has been restored and redeveloped in conjunction with adjacent new construction to create much-needed downtown housing at the edge of the campus.

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