The vacant Schmidt Brewery, one of St. Paul, Minn.'s most prominent structures, is being reimagined as workforce housing.

Dominium, a leading developer and owner of affordable housing, recently broke ground on the approximately $120 million development that will turn the old brew house and bottle house into 247 artist live-work apartments.

The adaptive-reuse project is likely the largest private redevelopment effort of its kind in the state, according to Owen Metz, developer with Dominium. 

The landmark has been dark for about a decade, but time has yet to fade its connection with locals. There are still so many people who say they worked there or had an uncle who did, Metz says.

While originally built as the Cave Brewery, the Schmidt Brewery has been home to the Stahlmann, North Star, Pfeiffer, Jacob Schmidt, and Landmark brands. The last kegs that rolled out in 2002 were filled with Grain Belt and Pig's Eye brew. The site also served as an ethanol processing plant.

Dominium officials think the unusual setting will call out to artists. Known locally as "the castle," the brewery offers a cool, unique environment with large windows and different studio space for artists to work. 

"We think it is the right community and a product there isn't a whole lot of," Metz says. 

Dominium has tailored other recent developments, including its Leather Trades Artist Lofts in St. Louis, to artists.

To finance the Schmidt Artist Lofts, developers have assembled a long list of funding sources, including tax-exempt bonds, 4 percent low-income housing tax credits, state and federal historic tax credits, Community Development Block Grant funds, and tax increment financing from the city. Environmental cleanup grants were also obtained to clean the pollution left on the site.

Funding partners include Alliant Capital, U.S. Bank, Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers, city of St. Paul, Ramsey County, and the state of Minnesota.