City adopts architectural beauty contest for post office site

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March 29, 2004 // UPDATED 10:28 am - April 25, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

During the big building boom of the 1980s, the city of San Francisco enacted what architects referred to as "the beauty contest." When a site was up for redevelopment, architectural models and plans were submitted by developers to a committee who chose the winning design based on its aesthetics and ability to fit into the urban fabric.

Today, as we here in Minneapolis face old buildings coming to the end of their life spans, new buildings on the rise, and way too many surface parking lots, our brave city Planning Department has decided to follow the City by the Bay's example and has formed the Minneapolis Architecture and Design (MAD) commission.

First up: the two-block-long main post office site, 800 S. 1st St. Several plans are in the works to convert this desirable river site into The Philatelic Lofts.

"Sure, the post office has a few nice architectural details and light fixtures," said Ima Filbert, newly appointed MAD commissioner. "But with all this e-mail, snail mail's really on the way out. And with everyone flocking to expensive river lofts, we decided it was best to get rid of that old eyesore."

The Philatelic Lofts accepted design schematics from architects and developers across the country. Several ideas were presented for the city's first beauty contest with the three finalists shown here. (See illustrations.)

Being that we're a democratic city, the Planning Commission decided to let Downtowners vote on the final design. Cast your vote at

Sure it's the April Fool's issue, but what if we really had such a beauty contest?

Let me know what you think of these 10 Downtown "beauties." I'll print the results in an upcoming column. Send an e-mail to grading these buildings "A" through "F":

  • The Foshay Tower, 821 Marquette Ave.,

  • Multifoods Tower, 33 S. 6th St.,

  • Block E, 600 Hennepin Ave. S.,

  • Federal Courts Building, 300 S. 4th St.,

  • Gaviidae Common, 555 Nicollet Mall,

  • IDS Center, 80 S. 8th St.,

  • Wells Fargo, 90 S. 7th St.,

  • Federal Reserve, 90 Hennepin Ave. S.,

  • Le Meridien Hotel, 601 1st Ave. N., and

  • the 225 South Sixth Street building.

    LUNCH TIP: Immerse yourself in the benefits of good design, go to Goodfellow's, 40 S. 7th St., today -- it's the most architecturally stunning restaurant interior for miles around. Plus, they have lunches for $10.