In the 2019 Economic Impact of Projects Leveraged by the Minnesota Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit report (released last week), several case studies were featured, including The Grand Center for Arts and Culture (originally known as the Grand Hotel.) Earlier this summer, we completed our first Downtown Assessment and StoryMap for the city of New Ulm. To see our work come full circle in both community and rehabilitation is more than we could have ever imagined, let alone reimagined.
This project is unique with its final cost being only $2.4 million, but resulted in $16.60 of economic activity for every state dollar that was contributed due to the credit. The rehabilitation supported over 30 jobs, and doubled its property value.
During our conversations with New Ulm residents, we learned more about the transformation of The Grand Center and its effect on the community as a whole.
The Grand Center for Arts and Culture building is deeply rooted in the earliest days of New Ulm's history. Originally a hotel, first building on the site was erected in 1856 under the guidance of Philip Gross. After the hotel burned in 1860 a second was quickly built, even serving as a hospital during the U.S.-Dakota War in 1862. Like it's predecessor the hotel would fall victim to a fire in 1875. Not to be deterred Gross set out to build again, this time using brick instead of wood.
After the property changed hands in 1899 the building underwent extensive renovations including the addition of third story. Along with the renovations the building was given a new name: The Grand Hotel. Throughout the 20th century the building would continue as a hotel until the 1970s, thereafter it would serve numerous purposes and businesses. In 2000 Anne Makepeace, the great-great granddaughter of Phillip Gross purchased the building and three years later began renovations. In 2009 a non-profit was formed with the intention of managing the building and turning it into what is today: New Ulm's premiere destination for arts and culture.
The Grand Center for Arts and Culture is multi-purpose arts venue in the center of New Ulm offering performance space, art camps, studios, and a gallery. The first floors houses The Grand Kabaret, a performance space that offers free concerts nearly every weekend. Featuring regular musicians invokes the long history of musicianship and performance in New Ulm. Once dubbed the polka capital of the world New Ulm has a rich legacy of musicianship through the German influenced style, though the artists featured at the Grand tend to offer more eclectic styles of music the legacy of New Ulm, German heritage, and musical tradition are deeply intertwined.
Left: Artist Studio. Top Right: Music Lesson Studio. Bottom Right: The Grand Printing Press.
Beyond the performance space one finds a kitchen, historic bar, and a gift shop selling goods from local artists. Additionally the building contains an art gallery that hosts multiple shows a year, areas for youth arts education programs, studios for music lessons, artist studios, and a one bedroom apartment available for overnight guests. Most recently a printmaking studio called Cellar Press has been added in the basement.
With it's structure firmly intact the building serves as a reminder of New Ulm's rich history. While the interior functions of The Grand elicit a cultural vibrancy that serves people of all ages. This mix of modern and historic is a monumental reflection of New Ulm's desire to stay true to the town's roots while forging ahead into the future.