Twin Cities Pride || 2015
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Armory in downtown Minneapolis sold to developer who plans events venue

The old Armory in downtown Minneapolis has a new owner who plans to turn it into a destination for people, not cars.

Minneapolis-based Swervo Development, led by Ned Abdul, bought the building Thursday from a company run by Doug Hoskin, a principal at Interstate Parking, for $6 million.

“I love the history of it, and I think I love the promise of it. The promise of what it could deliver for the next 50 years in the city,” said David Shea, principal of Minneapolis-based design firm Shea Inc., which is partnering with Swervo on the redevelopment.

The developer will likely turn the cavernous interior into a concert, event and sporting entertainment venue with a capacity of between 3,000 and 5,000 — landing it between large venues like Target Center and the smaller music clubs, said Jon Austin, a spokesman for Swervo.

“There’s not really an exciting or interesting venue in the whole Twin Cities that’s in that size range with the type of broad adaptability this space will offer,” Austin said.

Despite historical significance and a storied past, the Armory has operated as a parking garage for more than 15 years — a frustrating reality for the historic and design community, but one forced by economic conditions.

Built in 1935 during Art Deco’s Moderne architectural phase, the building was the most expensive single structure constructed in Minnesota with the support of a Depression-era Works Progress Administration grant.

Until the mid-1970s, it was used by the Minnesota National Guard and for trade shows, political conventions, boxing and wrestling tournaments. And from 1947 to 1959, it was used part-time by the Minneapolis Lakers, the pro basketball team that later moved to California to become the Los Angeles Lakers.

The team estimates that, if all goes well with the city, the project would take between 12 and 18 months.