The once-industrial Hiawatha Corridor in Minneapolis is slowly shifting into a residential and commercial destination. Since the advent of light-rail access in the neighborhood, many of its factories and industrial areas have been demolished and rebuilt as new apartments or commercial spaces.

But when presented with the same opportunity with the former Lake Street Sash & Door Co. millwork factory, architect–design firm BKV Group and developer Dominium chose instead to repurpose the historic complex. The existing warehouse and cold-storage sheds served as the canvas for Millworks Lofts, a 100% affordable community of 78 high-demand apartments.

Because the 90-year-old factory was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the project team worked carefully to ensure that its plans and changes were compliant with state and federal historic restoration requirements. Both the National Park Service and the Minnesota Historic Preservation Office required that the new project preserve and highlight the building’s original features and uses, in order to maintain its historic integrity.

The amenity spaces and unit floor plans are designed around the millworks’ existing structures, including original windows and window openings, weathered brick walls, and timber support columns. The one-, two-, and three-bedroom lofts in the warehouse feature 12-foot ceilings, while the cold-storage spaces feature prominent tongue-and-groove ceiling structures.

The residential units are arranged in a ring around a central spine in the former warehouse, anchored at one end by a vertical connecting stair and at the other by the original elevator shaft, now a light well with original structures as design elements. One of the lumber sheds now houses a large community room with a fireplace, a fitness room and yoga studio, and the leasing office, while another has been converted into a parking garage and storage space with exposed tongue-and-groove ceilings and supports. A smaller clubhouse and patio are located on the roof.

The building’s geothermal heating and cooling system uses the ground below the parking lot as a heat store, saving heat during the summer and using the saved heat during the winter. LED lighting, low-flow water fixtures, and rooftop energy-recovery units further reduce the building’s carbon footprint. Since the community sits between an active rail line and a busy roadway, the team placed a landscaped perimeter and parking spaces between the property and its nearby corridors, forming a visual and aesthetic buffer.

Millworks Lofts is located within walking distance of the new light-rail stop, with easy access to commuter roadways and bus stops. The lofts leased quickly after opening, notes the developer, with a positive reception from residents.