After more than 60 years of operating in downtown St. Paul’s Historic Hamm Building, the Hamm Clinic needed a change of scenery. Richard Pakonen and PAK Properties bought the six-story office building on St. Peter Street for $2 million last January, with the intention of converting it from an office building to residential use.
“They had told us how much they’d be increasing our rent, and it was four times what we were currently paying,” said Linda Ewing, the interim executive director of the nonprofit mental health clinic. The clinic, which offers services ranging from trauma and grief counseling to couples therapy and immigration asylum assessments, was established in 1954 by Margaret Hamm Kelley, a social worker and granddaughter of St. Paul brewing titan Theodore Hamm.
Instead of remaining downtown in the building once owned by the Hamm family, the clinic found a more spacious new home just across the Mississippi River and over the Robert Street bridge at 10 River Park Plaza, within the glass-paneled office building frequently referred to by the name of its major tenant, Comcast.
The cable and telecommunications giant had downsized operations within the building throughout the pandemic, and smaller tenants had packed up and left, leaving the eight-story Comcast building a bit ghostly on the inside.
“The negotiations for space turned out to be very positive for us,” Ewing said. She noted the Comcast building offers ample outdoor parking, and the nonprofit no longer has to cover the cost of staff and client parking at a downtown ramp.
SEVENTH FLOOR SPACE
In late September, the Hamm Clinic held an open house for its new digs, which span half the seventh floor of the Comcast building. The space, previously occupied by the newsroom, advertising and executive offices of the Pioneer Press, now welcomes patients to family, group and individual therapy in a modern office layout overlooking the river.
Located toward the north side of the building, the Hamm Clinic now spans 13,000 square feet on one level, whereas it previously occupied 8,300 square feet spread across three levels of the Hamm Building, “which made it challenging,” Ewing said. “It is a big upgrade.”
The benefits go beyond more elbow room.
The nonprofit clinic, which launched an ongoing capital campaign to cover the expansion, worked with an architect to achieve a build-out that emphasizes curved walls, natural lighting, a soothing color palette and other emblems of “trauma-informed” design, Ewing said. That includes hallways large enough for social workers and therapists to strike a reassuring pose walking elbow-to-elbow with clients, rather than leading in front of them.
As a training facility for a variety of therapists, the Hamm Clinic works with three psychiatrist-trainees at a time, as well as social workers and other mental health professionals.
The organization is actively looking to hire more psychologists, Ewing said, and interviews for a permanent new executive director are underway. Six offices remain empty and available for future services and expansion.
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