A new event center is planned for downtown Anoka in the historic Mill Site Building at the north end of downtown, near the old silos.
Darrin and Emily Larson, both Anoka High School graduates, plan to purchase and transform the riverside property at 111 Harrison St. into a venue with capacity for up to 200 guests.
“We ... love the aesthetics of the building,” Emily Larson said. “We love the location of the building. And I have worked in the hospitality and catering industry over many years and just thought, ‘Wouldn’t this make a great event space?’”
Potential uses include weddings and receptions, corporate events, concerts, banquets and more.
The 4,200-square-foot building will have a main event room of about 3,000 square feet. There will also be restrooms, a private room and a staging area.
The facility will not have a full kitchen or in-house catering.
Original plans called for an outdoor patio, but the Larsons dropped the idea after homeowners across the river raised concerns about potential noise and large groups gathering in view of their backyards.
According to the conditional use permit application, the facility will be available to rent 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.
Exterior renovations “will be made with the intent of keeping intact the historical character and charm that the Mill Site Building has,” according to the application.
The City Council unanimously approved a conditional use permit Feb. 4.
The City Council did have concerns about parking, because the current plan includes only 14 off-street spaces and relies on street parking and public ramps for the rest. But the council decided it was comfortable with the parking situation now and could address any potential problems in the future.
Emily Larson said it will be important for the business to have adequate parking, and if parking becomes a problem, it has options to consider, such as contracting with a church lot and offering a shuttle.
Council members praised the Larsons’ willingness to invest in the property.
“Everybody that goes down there appreciates that site and that building, (and) wants to see it there for a long time,” Council Member Erik Skogquist said.
Council Member Mark Freeburg agreed, saying, “Without a use this building would be irrelevant, and without a use this building would eventually go away.”
Emily Larson said the property needs significant renovation but that she and her husband love old buildings and are excited to share it with the public as soon as possible.