In an ambitious effort to provide economical space for book-related firms and organizations, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, the Loft Literary Center and the small press Milkweed Editions have joined forces to renovate a 55,000-sq.-ft. facility in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. The three-story brick building, dating back to the late 1800s, is set to open in April 2000. Officially named the Minnesota Book and Literary Arts Building, the facility, to be called Open Book, will include a 2800-sq.-ft. bookstore, operated by the local Hungry Mind Bookstore, as well as a library, a performing arts hall and workshop and studio spaces. The group has raised $2.7 million of the project's $5.5-million budget.

Open Book's groundbreaking ceremony took place at the end of May; so far, Milkweed is the sole publisher tenant signed up. However, Milkweed's executive director Sid Farrar told PW that space is available for other publishers. "We have hopes of getting more publishers in there,"noted Farrar. "It will certainly put the Twin Cities even more on the map as a literary and publishing center."

David Unowsky, owner of the Hungry Mind Bookstore, agreed: "The great mix of things makes a statement about the importance of books and writing in the world."

The MCBA provides studio and exhibition spaces for artists working at letterpress, hand book-binding and paper making. The Loft is a literary center offering classes and programs for writers. Milkweed Editions is a nonprofit literary press. The three organizations will remain separate entities, but will share space.

"We've really created a model for others,"asserted Farrar. "We would love to see more facilities like this around the country."