Sons of Norway selling headquarters

New development on the site will include a new SON headquarters to open in 2020

Photo courtesy of Sons of Norway
After 55 years, the Sons of Norway International headquarters building and its surrounding property in Minneapolis, Minn., have been sold to Ryan Companies and Weidner Apartment Homes.

Leslee Lane Hoyum
Rockford, Minn.

After 55 years at 1455 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, the Sons of Norway International headquarters building and its surrounding property have been sold to Ryan Companies and Weidner Apartment Homes. Considered to be a premier location in the Uptown neighborhood, the property has been home to Sons of Norway since 1962. The Sons of Norway plans to continue business operations on the current site when redevelopment is complete, including its financial services and international cultural associations and opportunities.

“After an extensive process to ensure the highest and best use of our primary asset, the clear choice was to sell the property that has served us so well,” said Eivind J. Heiberg, CEO of Sons of Norway. “Considering the advantageous market conditions in the Uptown neighborhood and the challenges of an aging facility, it was time to make the most forward-thinking decision for the long-term health of our organization, employees, and the community, and to continue our presence in the vibrant Uptown neighborhood.”

The property covers 2.17 acres, including the headquarters building, which comprises 60,000 square feet. Ryan Companies, along with Weidner Apartment Homes, plans to develop, design, and construct or re-construct the property. Ryan has been involved in many successful iconic property redesigns, such as the Midtown Global Exchange, Grain Belt Brewery, Foshay Tower, and many others.

According to Tony Barranco, Ryan’s vice president of real estate development, “Working with Sons of Norway has been fascinating as we have grown to understand the organization not only as a business but as a cultural icon. As much as we’d like to save the headquarters building, it is old and riddled with hazardous materials. To put it back in functional form would be very difficult. Our current thinking is that it will have to be deconstructed. Furthermore, we must take into consideration that it is located in an urban fabric that has grown around it, and we want the next generation of Sons of Norway members to be as impactful and vibrant to the area as the last.

“However, there is a lot of groundwork to be done before final plans are released,” Barranco continued. “We need to talk to commercial and residential neighbors and, of course, to the City of Minneapolis to discuss zoning requirements. But be assured that throughout the planning process a Norwegian theme will lead our design in honor of the impact Sons of Norway has made on Lake Street.”

Although design ideas are merely preliminary, Barranco envisions a mixed-use building, including commercial and residential space, assuming the zoning laws allow for it. He also sees Sons of Norway as the anchor, a long-term tenant on the first floor with a destination café or restaurant and plenty of green space. He feels it will offer Sons of Norway a very visible presence in Uptown, which recognizes its contribution to the area. The other parcels currently owned by Sons of Norway most likely will be residential, since the property is adjacent to apartment buildings and single-family homes.

“We found Ryan and Weidner to be excellent partners,” said Heiberg. “They respect Sons of Norway’s history and contributions in Uptown. With what they’re looking to develop for us we feel this is an absolutely natural fit. We love the folks in Uptown and we’re extremely pleased to stay here long term.”

Within six to eight months, Sons of Norway will move to a temporary home, which is yet to be determined. Along with it will move the Minneapolis Honorary Consulate General of Norway, which is currently housed at the Sons of Norway headquarters. Both Sons of Norway and Ryan Companies expect Sons of Norway to be back on Lake Street by early 2020, just in time to celebrate the organization’s 125th anniversary.

Sons of Norway’s mid-20th-century strategic planning included building its current headquarters. “We’ve had great renters and have financially benefited from them,” said Heiberg. “However, with an aging building and our long-term tenant building its own facilities across the street, it was the perfect time to consider selling the headquarters and adjoining properties. The proceeds of the sale will be re-invested with the advice of our investment managers and approved by our international board of directors. The income will help ensure the well-being of both the business and fraternal sides of Sons of Norway.”

Although the final purchase price will not be disclosed until closing when it becomes public record, Hennepin County assesses Sons of Norway’s five parcels at $7.5 million, with the Sons of Norway building accounting for $3.6 million of that total. In most cases, county assessments are lower than actual selling or purchasing amounts.

Sons of Norway, founded in 1895, is a fraternal life insurance company devoted to supporting people through every stage of life, while providing opportunities for a vibrant social experience around Norwegian culture. Ryan Companies, founded in 1938, is a builder, developer, designer, and real estate manager based in Minneapolis. Weid­ner Apartment Homes, founded in 1977, acquires, builds, and manages apartment and townhouse communities and is based in Kirkland, Wash., with a regional office in Minnetonka, Minn.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 25, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.