Historic Schorenstein Garage to become a home for young couple

The historic Schorenstein Garage and Railing Shop, located at 216-218 Bates Ave., was recently purchased by a young couple, Cory Vandenberghe and Tia Helfrich, who will renovate it into their home. The property was included in the April 2016 Dayton’s Bluff Vacant Home Tour.

In August 2016, Cory Vandenberghe proposed to his girlfriend Tia Helfrich in front of the property 216-218 Bates Ave., which they recently purchased from the city.

The historic preservation of the outside of the building will be based off historic photos such as this. Doors similar to the double doors seen in this picture will replace the current white garage door.

The property is the last from the vacant home tour to be sold

The historic Schorenstein Garage has new owners. The property, which is the last to be officially sold from the Dayton’s Bluff Vacant Home Tour, will be converted from a commercial space into a home.

During the Jan. 11 St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority meeting, the sale and development agreement were approved for the property at 216-218 Bates Ave. 

The former commercial property will be rehabilitated by Cory Vandenberghe and his fiancée, Tia Helfrich, for their future home, making this particular home sale unique in that it is being rehabilitated by the future occupants themselves rather than a developer.

The property, known as the historic Schorenstein Garage or the Railing Shop, consists of two buildings for a total of 3,500 square feet. The two-story red building was built in 1886. The white-washed single-story garage was built in 1912 as a auto garage to serve the Schorenstein Grocery and Saloon located across the street at 707 Wilson Ave.

“This is just a great, happy ending for these six vacant buildings,” said St. Paul Ward 7 city council member Jane Prince.

The Dayton’s Bluff Vacant Home Tour was organized last April by Dayton’s Bluff community members. The six properties, four homes and two commercial spaces, were slated to be demolished by the city. However, because of their locations in the Dayton’s Bluff Historic District, the city was denied demolition permits and the community rallied to give these buildings one more shot. 


A happy ending

Vandenberghe said he first found out about the vacant home tour from his real estate agent. He had recently sold his house and was interested in buying a historic home. 

Vandenberghe and Helfrich of Lakeville attended the April 2016 tour. He said, “We saw the exterior of 216 Bates on that trip and fell in love with the building and ultimately came back with the city to tour the interior about a week later.”

When he submitted their proposal for the property to the HRA, Vandenberghe, a digital marketing manager for Gander Mountain, added in a website in which they would share the progress of their home, explaining that it would be an opportunity for the Inspiring Communities program to highlight their work.

The Inspiring Communities program is a part of St. Paul’s Planning and Economic Development department. The program helps developers cover the cost of renovating vacant or condemned homes. The goal of the program is to reduce the number of vacant homes, which attract crime or drive down neighboring homes values while retaining the historic value of a neighborhood. 

The proposal was accepted and Vandenberghe purchased the property for $1 and was awarded a $178,000 subsidy for the rehabilitation of the property. The total development cost is $628,854.

Vandenberghe and Helfrich said they will be picking up the rest of the cost with $300,000 in cash and a private construction loan.

“We will complete the project with more money invested into the building/house than the current estimated market value. This is a risk we are aware of, but are willing to accept to find a unique space we can truly make our own,” said Vandenberghe.

The website also serves as a way for family, friends and the community to get updates on the project. Updates on the website included Vandenberghe and Helfrich’s engagement, which happened in August in front of the Railing Shop property.

Vandenberghe hopes that they will be able to move in by this fall, but acknowledge they may find structural surprises along the way which might push their schedule back. 


If you go...

To celebrate the last of the Dayton’s Bluff Vacant Home Tour properties being sold, community members are celebrating at Flat Earth Brewing Company, 688 Minnehaha Ave., on Feb. 8 from 5 to 7 p.m. Anyone is welcome to attend.

Familiar with the neighborhood

Vandenberghe is working with Otogawa-Anschel Design + Build, a Minneapolis-based design-build firm that has worked on other homes in Dayton’s Bluff.

Otogawa-Anschel’s principal architect Michael Anschel said this is the third project the firm has tackled in Dayton’s Bluff. Their work on the home at 761 Third St., also known as the historic Syver Hagen House #2, won an award in 2016 from the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission in which they salvaged a bar back and did some bathroom renovations.

Otogawa-Anschel are working with Vandenberghe and Helfrich to design the interior living space and to also historically preserve the building’s exterior. 

“When working with historic properties, a challenge is trying to make sure we stay true to the original intent of the space,” Anschel said. 

He said with this particular project they will be maintaining the historic integrity of the property by restoring the outside of the building. The inside of the building, he said, will have to be completely gutted, as the structure has been vacant since 2005. The city purchased it for $110,000 in 2007.

There are extensive mold issues, a hole in the roof, a missing back wall, and broken windows, among other issues. 

Anschel added that a project like this is exciting for the designers. “The openness of the interior give us lots of flexibility to meet Cory and Tia’s needs of how they want to live and entertain.”

He said they will be adding stairs in the two-story part of the building and the interior will have a modern, “deconstructed” look.

Anschel added that overall, it has been great working with the city and that the process of working with the Heritage Preservation Commission “feels very collaborative.” 

He said Dayton’s Bluff reminds him of Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood in that it is geographically tucked away from downtown, has “amazing historic homes, a strong sense of identity, and has been doing a lot of community building over last 10 to 15 years.”

Anschel added that while working in Dayton’s Bluff, he has noticed that community members “work hard to improve neighborhood.” 

To follow the progress of the restoration and remodel of 216-218 Bates Ave., visit therailingshop.co.


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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