NuWay plans to renovate Pillsbury Mansion as temporary housing for clients

NuWay Executive Director David Vennes had his eye on the Pillsbury Mansion at 2118 Blaisdell Ave. for three years, watching its list price drop from $3 million down to $1.2 million.

As soon as the price came within reach, NuWay purchased the mansion with plans to keep the original residence intact and convert the former nursing home addition into rental units. Twenty-two units would be used for NuWay clients graduating out of its residential treatment centers, with average stays anticipated at 90 days. The original five-bedroom residence, which includes a basement that was used as a ballroom, would be left intact. Viewed from the exterior, the property would remain almost entirely unchanged, staff said.

NuWay provides treatment for chemical dependency and mental health, and it opened the first halfway house in Minnesota at 2200 1st Ave. S. The nonprofit also owns a treatment center at 22nd & Central in Northeast, a new outpatient center at 2217 Nicollet Ave., and a residential treatment center at 2518 1st Ave. S.

“We’re not looking for any kind of license,” Vennes said. “This will just be housing.”

Two staff members would work onsite 24 hours a day, and residents would remain sober or risk eviction.

The Pinecrest door company previously occupied the building, using a small portion of the structure.

A Whittier Alliance committee voted against the proposal in a 13-9 vote on May 12, based on the neighborhood’s high concentration of poverty and services. Some residents challenged Vennes on whether he was actually providing “supportive housing,” which has quarter-mile spacing requirements.

Other attendees said the housing should not be located “across the street from drug dealers.”

“You’re going on your fourth one. Why concentrate them all here?” asked one attendee.

Vennes lives in Whittier, and he said most of NuWay’s clients come from the neighborhood.

“There are a lot of people in recovery in this community, and that’s one of the real attractions of this community,” Vennes said.