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Real estate development firm donates St. Paul building – MPR News

Many folks are familiar with the donation process at the Salvation Army: pull up, open the trunk and hand over a bag of used clothes, set out an old chair or drop off some board games the kids don’t use. 

Basir Tareen was driving down the road recently, trying to figure out what to do with a downtown St. Paul medical office building he bought last summer — part of a small portfolio of properties he and his wife, dermatologist Mohiba Tareen, were developing. 

“I kept saying, gosh, this really needs to be shelter housing or some kind of transitional housing, and I was actually driving around with my boys, they’re 12 and 10, and I was like, we could actually build this thing, but we don’t know anything about running a homeless shelter. And my 10 year old … kind of just sprouts up and says why don’t you donate the building to someone who knows how to run that?” 

So, they gave it to the Salvation Army. 

The 8-story Gallery Medical Building, as it used to be known, stands on the west half of the block that used to be the Science Museum of Minnesota, now the Church of Scientology of the Twin Cities. The building was largely vacant in the wake of the decision to close St. Joseph’s. 

Tareen, a urologist, said he and his wife got some grant money for housing, but instead asked a number of local non-profits if they wanted the building. The organizations would then seek the money themselves. 

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“We did a little research. And with our recent strategic plan that we did, we know there’s a lot of need for affordable housing in the Twin Cities. So we saw this as a potential candidate for that,” said Maj. Scott Shelbourn, the Twin Cities commander for the Salvation Army. He said the Salvation Army has a number of long- and short-term housing programs, including the Harbor Lights shelter in Minneapolis. 

An office building in downtown St. Paul

The 8-story Gallery Medical Building, as it used to be known, stands on the west half of the block that used to be the Science Museum of Minnesota, now the Church of Scientology of the Twin Cities.

Ben Hovland | MPR News

Appraisers set the St. Paul building’s value at about $5 million, a major gift for the charity. Shelbourn says his organization is exploring funding options for converting it over to housing, as well as a home to some of the Salvation Army’s programming in St. Paul. 

“The way they put plumbing in for the medical offices and such, it’d be very conducive and easy for us to convert into some into some sort of affordable housing if we go that direction,” Shelbourn said. 

The donation follows middling efforts to battle homelessness in St. Paul, which still hasn’t managed to eliminate people living outdoors in tents. That’s even despite the $100 million construction of Catholic Charities Dorothy Day campus, completed in 2019. 

“It’s heartbreaking,” Tareen said. In an interview, he said that he thought the building could have turned a profit for his small family real estate company, but tax implications of the donation will help cover their purchase price. 

“I hope it makes other people sort of think about it,” Tareen said. “Because I do think there’s probably a lot of landlords who have buildings that maybe were office at one time and they’re like, ‘What do I do next?’ And I hopefully just makes them think, even if they don’t donate the building that they couldn’t turn this into some affordable housing, which is what we need.” 

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