Minneapolis is willing to sell you two North Side buildings for just $1

The long dormant buildings together house 2,500 square feet of residential space, in addition to thousands more of commercial footage below.

The long dormant buildings together house 2,500 square feet of residential space, in addition to thousands more of commercial footage below.

Side-by-side 1920s-era buildings in north Minneapolis fell into tax forfeiture, collecting cobwebs for half a decade. Last year, the city of Minneapolis acquired the haggard structures at Fremont and 42nd that consist of 7,500 square feet of commercial space, plus another 2,500 square feet of second-floor apartments.

The Department of Community Planning and Economic Development this week listed the two as a package deal. The asking price: $1.

That's not to say the sale isn't without strings. The buyer can't demolish, but must rehab both.

"After talking to the community, there's the sense of wanting to preserve the assets at that intersection," says Casey Dzieweczynski, the city's senior project coordinator. "It's on a historic streetcar line… [and] there's a lot of vacant land in north Minneapolis already so we have an asset here we want to see get redeveloped." 

Historic feel-goods be damned, the construction TLC won't come cheap. New roofs are needed. Same goes for the electrical and mechanical systems. Asbestos removal too.

In all, the city estimates renovating the buildings will cost north of $1 million.   

Brainstorming for businesses to potentially occupy the space, the city recently posted the properties on Among the ideas collecting the most votes: coffee shop, restaurant, bakery, and office space. 

This isn't the city's maiden foray into dollar real estate. It sold the Hollywood Theater in Northeast for the same price to developer Andrew Volna in 2015.

The iconic structure on Johnson Street Northeast is the focus of a massive redevelopment, with its ultimate use an events center.

Looking westward, Volna doesn't know exactly what would make the Fremont project palatable to a developer. He reckons it'll have to be some kind of hodgepodge of small business leases complemented by apartments. What he is certain about is the economics.

"Let's not make this overly complicated," he says. "In real estate what you're selling is space. As far as the math goes it's about how much you have to put into the investment. How much you need to generate to recoup that money and what kind of return you hope to make.

"Taking a look at this particular property, I've always thought there's an interesting energy on West Broadway. How this could fit into that I don't know. The biggest challenge, I think, is how creative can you be? I'm guessing they'll get somebody to come forward. I am always amazed at the miracle of the free market."

That's what City Council Member Blong Yang hopes for as well.

"When you see this and it's listed for a dollar, what you should think is this thing is worth saving, but there's crap inside of it," he says. "And you got to rehab in such a way you got to bring it back to life."