North Star Lofts Iconic Sign Rehabilitation Project Begins
The rehabilitation project of the two iconic “North Star Blankets” signs will begin on the morning of July 8. A giant crane should be appearing by the NSL at 117 Portland Ave to lower the signs into the upper parking lot, where they will be disassembled for transport off-site for rehabilitation.
The three-dimensional stars and letters, fabricated of sheet metal, will be revitalized and painted. Originally outlined in neon, these signs will also be re-lit with efficient LED lighting. The Homeowners Association will be repointing masonry and repairing/replacing bricks on facades adjacent to the signage as part of scheduled maintenance. The project will be finished and signs will be reinstalled in the fall of 2015.
Originally built in 1925 as part of an earlier woolen mill, the building is in a historic district that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The district is also locally designated, so plans for renovating the signs have been reviewed and approved by the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission to ensure the work is consistent with the district’s design guidelines. The Guidelines state: “Historic signs within the historic district have become character defining elements of the district’s and city’s identity… Historic signs should be maintained and preserved.”
The entire scope of the sign renovation and related masonry work amounts to $350,000. This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota through the Minnesota Historical Society from the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund in the amount of $248,000, showing the support of maintaining and preserving historic signage on a historic building in a historic district. The remainder is being financed by the North Star Lofts Homeowners’ Association.
The Homeowners Association is ensuring the prevailing value of the North Star Blankets signs on the character of the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District by completing the rehabilitation and allowing them to remain in place on the exterior of the building. In addition, the Homeowners Association anticipates that the work on the North Star Blankets signs will catalyze interest in rehabilitating the nearby Grain Belt Beer sign, which has stood unlit and deteriorating for many years. Finally, the project will serve as a model and inspiration for the rehabilitation of other historic signs that could once again become icons in downtowns, industrial areas, and neighborhoods across Minnesota.
The Homeowner’s Association has been advised on this project by architects Denita Lemmon and Chuck Liddy, of Miller Dunwiddie Architects; and historical preservation consultant Charlene Roise, of Hess Roise and Company; and Kate Grutzmacher of FirstService Residential. The Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association has been the fiscal agent for the project.
Brief history of signs
The two signs atop the original North Star Woolen Mill were installed in the early1930’s. Both signs feature the company’s iconic upside-down five-pointed star and the words “North Star Blankets” were once outlined in neon. The company folded in the mid-twentieth century and the neon tubes and most components of the system were removed.
In 2012 the North Star Lofts Homeowners Association discovered that deteriorated sections of the signs were falling to the ground. After inspecting the signs, Encompass, an engineering consultant, concluded that corroded connections on the rooftop support structure needed immediate repairs, while the wall sign’s frame was stable but needed maintenance. The stars and letters contained “significant levels of corrosion, varying from surface corrosion, to a 100% loss of the substrate.”
For questions, please contact:
Roger Hale, President, North Star Lofts Homeowners Association
Kate Grutzmacher, FirstService Residential
About FirstService Residential
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