In an industrial park in South St. Paul sits an unassuming warehouse and factory that takes some rather unpleasant substances – animal carcasses, meat byproducts, used cooking oil – and turns them into usable products. Stuff that would otherwise go into a landfill finds extended purpose in animal feed, biodiesel, even high-end leather. It’s recycling that goes beyond paper, bottles and cans.

Ultimately, the services and products Sanimax provides are an essential part of the economy and prevent many tons of raw materials from going to waste. But one can imagine that sustaining a positive corporate image in this kind of industry might require a little extra effort.

For more than 15 years, KOMA had maintained an ongoing relationship with Van Hoven, a local family-owned reclamation facility. When that operation was purchased by Sanimax three years ago, KOMA continued to work with the South St. Paul plant on small projects and was ready to step in again when the company decided it was time for a major overhaul. Partnering with local firm Loucks Associates, KOMA helped Sanimax develop a master plan that will be implemented over the next six years.

The complexity of the project involved multiple areas of expertise, including architecture, structural and civil engineering, and landscape architecture. One of the first projects to be tackled is restructuring one of the facilities from a single-line process into a double-line process. The change will increase returns for products manufactured on those lines, helping to fund other property improvements. This phase includes building an addition onto the existing structure to create more space for the manufacturing lines, and then repurposing one end of the building for office space. Offices currently housed in nearby temporary trailers will move into the new permanent office space, and the remodeled façade will present a more appealing view from the road. The renovated office space and future landscaping plans will help the complex more fully comply with city codes and make a better impact on the community.

Steve Iaria, AIA, lead architect on the project, said, “Every project we do is different from the last one. With this project, it’s been interesting to help a more nuts-and-bolts client understand how they really do make an impact on the community, to guide them along that process and help them enhance their image.”

Iaria continued, “It’s always a challenge working on a conversion / remodel project that requires a complete change of use (warehouse to office). Our goal during the creative process was to find an economical way to enhance the character of the building without making any major structural changes. The solution includes removing the existing loading dock doors and filling in the openings with glass. We also implemented forms and proportions into the façade based on standing remnants of the former stockyards. With added landscaping features in the front, the building will look (and soon function) like an office building.”


Fortunately, the proposed improvements have been well received by the city and neighboring businesses. The city has approved the six-year plan, and the completed designs for the phase I projects are just awaiting building permits. The first project is on schedule to start yet this fall with initial site preparation work, so that it will be ready for building to commence in the spring.