Old Swedish Bank Building is up for sale

The building at 965 Payne Ave., known locally as the Old Swedish Bank Building, is up for sale. The current owner, East Side Neighborhood Development Company, is looking to get out of the business of being a building owner to focus more on East Side development projects. courtesy of Google Maps Street View

The Payne Avenue State Bank, also known as the Old Swedish Bank Building, was built in 1923, the year this photo was taken by the St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press. courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

For fans of the historic Old Swedish Bank Building, now is your chance to own it. 

The 965 Payne Ave. building is on sale for $629,900.

A cornerstone of the Payne Avenue economic corridor for more than 80 years, the three-story building is about 16,000 square feet with three floors and a basement.

It’s currently owned by East Side Neighborhood Development Company, whose office is located on the second floor of the building. The company manages and leases out the additional floors. 

John Vaughn, the nonprofit’s executive director said putting the building up for sale makes sense.

“Owning and operating a building, being a landlord for nonprofits, is not central to our affordable housing and economic development mission,” he said, explaining that selling the building was a “focal point of discussion” during the board’s strategic planning process last fall and earlier this year.

The decision became more clear, Vaughn said, when Merrick Community Services, which leased the third floor office space, announced its move to Gustavus Adolphus Church this spring. The Eastside Financial Center leases the first floor.

The board argued a cornerstone building in the middle of an economic corridor should be owned by someone in the private sector — not by a nonprofit — because it adds to the economic growth of the Payne Avenue corridor. 

In most cases, when nonprofits own a building, they’re not paying property taxes because they’re tax exempt. 

In this case, ESNDC does pay property taxes, despite its nonprofit status. However, Vaughn said it’s more about the principle.

The more private sector owners already in place along Payne Avenue, he said, the more willing high-end investors and developers will be to buy on and build up Payne Avenue, adding to the area’s tax base.

ESNDC would be able to focus its time and resources on community development, not managing a building.

“We’d much rather be out there [on the East Side],” Vaugh said, helping small businesses start, rather than spending the small staff’s time and resources on being a landlord. 


A notable landmark

Many East Siders refer to 965 Payne Ave. as the Old Swedish Bank Building, because the bank served mainly Scandinavian, German and Italian immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century.

According to Dayton’s Bluff historian Steve Trimble, in an article on the Historic St. Paul website, the Payne Avenue State Bank, which was the building’s original name, was constructed in 1923. It was designed in a Beaux-Arts style by St. Paul architect William L. Alban, who specialized in school and church architecture. 

ESNDC acquired the building in 1999 after years of it being in disrepair. It wasn’t until 2005 that ESNDC, along with Neighborhood Development Center, were able to identify enough funding sources to complete a $2.5 million renovation of the building, which was completed in 2007. In all, 27 funding sources were used to pay for the renovation.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 and has served as an economic center, with organizations providing financial education training for individuals and small businesses.


Good timing

Vaughn said that with the recent revitalization along Payne Avenue and the strong market, the organization decided now was a good time to sell. The building was put on the market in February.

Vaughn said ESNDC is aiming to attract a property investor who will continue to lease out the space.

In the past few weeks, said Vaughn, several investors have looked at the building, a few touring it multiple times. 

If a buyer doesn’t make an offer by late fall, ESNDC will seek another tenant to lease the now-vacant third floor.

“We’re not just going to walk away from [the building],” should no one buy it, Vaughn said.

And if I buyer does come along, ESNDC will look to stay in the building.

“We’re totally willing to stay as a tenant,” he said.



Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto.


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