Take a one-minute tour of the new Downtown

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May 31, 2004 // UPDATED 1:47 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Architectural models provide 3-D showcase of what's coming

Downtown workers, residents and tourists can examine architectural models of new Mill District housing, the Nicollet Mall light-rail transit (LRT) station and the riverfront Guthrie Theater, among other projects, at the City Center beginning Friday, June 4.

The weeklong "Building Community" exhibit is open to the public in the 7th Street skyway linking City Center with the Radisson Plaza between Hennepin Avenue and Nicollet Mall.

The models will be on display in a vacant store space near a Starbucks coffee shop.

Exhibit organizer Peter Bruce said the exhibit gives people a chance to take a mini-architectural tour of the city. Major themes include the proposed Downtown ballpark, Franklin Avenue developments, libraries and citywide transit projects.

"I've always had a fascination with how people perceive the built environment around them, and there's few opportunities to see so many buildings and images of the city in one place as you do in this room," said Bruce, a consultant with Community Enhancement and Organizing. "You can kind of walk through the city in one minute and see these things all at once. ... A lot of times people don't have a chance to see these things up close."

Besides Downtown projects, the exhibit will showcase the city's branch libraries, improvements at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) and several housing developments, including new housing planned for the Midtown Greenway in southwest Minneapolis.

"It's such a collage of things," Bruce said. "I promise there will be something new that you've never seen before. [The architects] are working under wraps."

New glassy skyscrapers won't be a prominent feature of this year's display. Bruce said the showcase "doesn't quite have the glitz of new office buildings, but there aren't too many office buildings going up right now. There is a lot of housing."

Bruce is also a pedestrian studies expert who advises retailers locally and nationally on traffic patterns (According to a 2003 pedestrian foot count, the City Center skyway attracts more than 14,000 walkers a day). Since construction follows economic cycles, he predicts more office tenants and new Downtown buildings in two to three years.

"I think Minneapolis will soon return to a very busy sidewalk place because the office buildings will start to fill up again. They are, on the average, 25 percent vacant," he said.

New markets, transit, housing

Brookfield Properties, which manages City Center, 615 Hennepin Ave. S., plans to show off renderings for a street-level market and "fast" fresh-food area, said Betsy Buckley, a Brookfield spokeswoman.

She said the shopping complex is actively recruiting new tenants for the spaces, but hasn't formally signed new leases.

One exhibitor, Tracey Jacques, a senior designer at Minneapolis-based ESG Architects, said his firm will show off work done for the Nicollet Mall LRT station and St. Anthony Mills apartments.

The apartments are under construction in the riverfront Mill District on a strip of land called Parcel D, which is bordered by Portland Avenue to the west, Chicago Avenue to the east, Washington Avenue to the south and 2nd Street to the north. The project calls for Chicago Avenue to be extended toward the Mississippi to improve river access. The 99-unit apartment building will line three sides of a city-owned ramp for the Mill City Museum, 704 S. 2nd St., and other riverfront amenities.

Jacques said architectural models are critical to his work and the reason he got into the field.

"They are the most useful things for architecture," he said. "You can evaluate space, you can evaluate form, first of all. It's more difficult to appreciate it in a three-dimensional drawing. You can't move it around. You can't look at it from different angles."

For some architectural firms, computer-generated renderings are becoming more commonplace, replacing the more time-intensive and artful architectural models.

Jacques said three-dimensional drawings and computer images provide mere "snapshots," while models provide architects and their clients with a "full sensory perception" of a building.

"They open up new doors that you can't see in two-dimensions," he said.

When to go

The exhibit hours are:

- Friday, June 4, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

- Monday-Thursday, June 7-10, 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

- Friday, June 11, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

The exhibit is free to the public.

Event highlights include a special reception for members and friends of the American Institute of Architects, Tuesday June 8, 5-7 p.m. and a speech by Mayor R.T. Rybak over the lunch hour Wednesday June 9.