By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN No, it’s not diamonds or rubies, but there is a treasure tucked away in the center of Delano.
“It’s a geological wonder to look at,” said Chad Kestner, speaking of granite remnants on the nearly 10-acre piece of land he and his partner, Brandon Sleypen, purchased more than a year ago.
The granite site, with its pre-cut blocks and intricately carved pieces, has been uncharted territory for Sleypen and Kestner, whose company, Combined Aggregate Enterprises, is mainly focused on supplying aggregate products for road and bridge projects.
“Nobody around here really has experience with this type of stone,” Kestner said.
At first, Kestner and Sleypen purchased the property to crush the leftover granite into road material.
However, when they discovered the stone’s historic value, they decided to seek companies that could give it a better home.
“We have stone here from all over the world,” Kestner said. “We wanted to see it in projects more in the public eye.”
The majority of the granite is from the old Metropolitan Building, which was located in Minneapolis and torn down in the early 1960s. The 12-story structure included a marble entrance, glass floors, and elaborate iron grillwork.
The weight of granite varies depending on the type, but typically, it’s 150 to 190 pounds per cubic foot, according to Kester.
When he and Sleypen first bought the site, there were about 400 large blocks from the Metropolitan Building. Now, almost half of them have been sold.
“We’ve been really choosy about how we sell this stone,” Kestner said. “The people we sell to are usually developers who are into historical preservation or art. They’re the more unique projects.”
One set was donated to Delano Middle School as part of a 20-foot community sculpture depicting Delano’s history, created by well-known sculptor Zoran Mojsilov.
Several blocks were also sold to a developer for an outdoor courtyard in Vertical Endeavors, which is being constructed on 26th and Nicollet in Minneapolis. The new development will include restaurants, retail, and a state-of-the-art climbing facility.
Landscape artist Bruce Stillman, who owns Big Stone Mini Golf course in Minnetrista, has also been utilizing the stone.
“He does unbelievably cool artwork,” Kestner said.
Some of the pieces are being crushed and sold to Franklin Township and the city of Delano for roads.
“Everything we do here is recycling,” Kestner said. “It’s a very green project.”
Although the granite has tremendous value, it is necessary to have the right application for it, according to Kestner.
“It’s very buyer-specific,” he said.
Sorting through the granite to eliminate wire, rubber, garbage, and other refuse has been a challenge, but the site is starting to clear out.
“We’re about 16 months in,” Kestner said. “This is a three-to-five year plan.”
Kestner said the land might make a nice park in the future, but the city of Delano will make the decision about how to best use the area.
A sandy beach along the river, surrounded by shade trees, rests next to the granite site.
“This is a vastly underrated jewel for this city,” Kestner said. “You don’t know it’s here until you get in here.”
Although the land is beautiful, it’s not open for public tours, due to liability.
“It’s a dangerous site,” Kestner said, adding that he and Sleypen have security measures in place to prevent trespassing.
Kestner said that after this project, he hopes to restore other sites that have been abandoned, offering start-to-finish services such as planning, demolition, and restructuring.
“Our goal is to use this as a benchmark,” he said. “This has been such a difficult project, anything after this should be a breeze.”
Kester said that although the project has been challenging, the city of Delano has been understanding and supportive.
“The city council and surrounding homeowners have been very good to work with, and we’ve had very few issues,” he said.
For more information, contact Kestner or Sleypen at Combined Aggregate Enterprises at (763) 972-8003.