by Chris Rogers
Peter Shortridge, one of the owners of the 111 Riverfront Building in downtown Winona, has big plans for the 100 block of East Second Street. The firm purchased the former Kupietz Feed building earlier this year and plans to renovate and restore the historic property, filling the downtown storefronts with new businesses. Shortridge has plans to restore historic windows, brickwork, and the ornate cast iron columns on the building's facade. He will build a drive-through behind the building for a local credit union that will occupy 25 percent of the 17,000-square-foot building. He will also overhaul the building's rear entrance to be a second front door facing Levee Park. Other commercial tenants will round out the first level storefronts and office space will be rented on the second floor.
Shortridge and his business partners also said they have a purchase agreement for the Gundersen Lutheran Eye Clinic at the corner of Second and Lafayette streets. If they acquire the eye clinic, Shortridge and his partners will own all of the non-public property on the block. The city of Winona Port Authority OK'd a license agreement that would convert public parking spaces abutting the alley in that block into private parking spaces for Shortridge's new tenants. The Port Authority also gave its blessing to a potential overhaul of parking along the alley that would restrict traffic in the alley to a single lane but add 12 parking spaces. The city-owned lot on that block would not be affected.
"We'll create a new back entrance, which will face Levee Park," Shortridge said, explaining his plan for the former Kupietz building to the Winona Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) last month. "Long term we think this will be a really good thing for us because we think that will be a new front door for us." Shortridge said he hopes the project will be a catalyst for other property owners to invest in the downtown riverfront.
Shortridge redubbed the Kupietz building the "Latsch Building," in honor of the Latsch & Sons wholesale grocery that once operated in the space, owned by the Winona hero John A. Latsch. He explained to the HPC that the renovated building would still pat homage to the warehouse style features of the old building. Comparing it to the polished 111 Riverfront building next door, he said, "It's going to be a little funkier."
Shortridge has applied for historic preservation tax credits to help finance the roughly $3 million project. The HPC gave its blessing to the project last month. The building is listed on both city and national registers of historic places. Shaune Burke, HPC member and owner of the neighboring Burke Furniture Mart, told Shortridge, "I applaud your work as a community member and a downtown business owner and resident. I'm really excited about this project."
Winona Development Coordinator Myron White said of the project, "It's just going to be such an improvement. They're investing several million dollars in that building, and it will hopefully encourage some other investment in the area."
Shortridge said he was surprised by the strictness of some of the requirements Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) had to qualify for tax credits, such as restoring windows in very poor condition. Still, it was worth his while, partly because the detailed restoration meshed well with the market Shortridge was hoping to reach. "For us, it's worth it, because at the end of the day we feel it's a successful part of our business plan. There's a lot of demand for higher quality commercial downtown office space," he said. "We wouldn't be doing it if we didn't feel we could fill it."