Renovation Woes Force Sale of The Soap Factory

RJM Construction is forcing a sheriff’s sale on the arts center’s Minneapolis headquarters after incurring extraneous expenses from a top-to-bottom renovation it was hired to complete.

Renovation Woes Force Sale of The Soap Factory

The Soap Factory, which for years has spotlighted up-and-coming visual and performance artists, announced Thursday it was temporarily suspending all programming due to a funding issue. The key problem revolves around the fate of The Soap Factory’s headquarters building.

RJM Construction, the contractor hired to complete a top-to-bottom renovation of the building, has incurred significant expenses on behalf of the project, which the Soap Factory has been unable to reimburse. As such, RJM has forced a sheriff’s sale of the property, to protect its own financial status.

“The last three years have been very difficult for us financially,” said Roy M. Close, chair of the Soap’s Board of Directors, in a statement. “We thought we had a path forward, but to date we have not been able to secure the financing we need to pay RJM for the work it has already done and to complete the project. RJM has been more than patient, and we are grateful, but it cannot wait any longer.”

Per law, the Soap Factory still has six months to save its home — a converted soap flake factory in southeast Minneapolis. If in that time frame the Soap Factory can raise an amount equal to the high bid at the sheriff’s sale, expected to be around $2 or $3 million, it can reclaim the building title.

“That’s our main task in the months ahead,” Close said.

But the need to focus attention on fundraising, and the uncertain future is why the board decided to suspend programming.

The Soap Factory’s programming includes art exhibitions, artist-in-residence opportunities, performances, artist talks, and more. It bills itself as a “laboratory for artistic experimentation and innovation” that has supported artists for 26 years through providing space, funding, peer-to-peer artist connections and audience connections.

Soap Factory is in the process of informing its artists and funders of the programming suspension and related financial situation. At least one other entity that could be impacted by the loss of the Soap Factory is Haunted Basement, a theater company Halloween production that has run out of the building for the past two years.

Soap Factory isn’t the first arts nonprofit to encounter a monumental change or threat this year. Fellow downtown Minneapolis arts center Intermedia Arts had to sell itself in November for similar reasons. The space was sold to RightSource Compliance, an affordable housing-focused real estate company based in Minneapolis, for $3.5 million.

For now, Close said the Soap Factory isn’t giving up. “Given the uncertainty of our situation, we felt an obligation to suspend our programming until we know that we can deliver on our promises,” he said.

The sheriff’s sale of the Soap Factory building is scheduled for next week.  

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