Images by Gensler Minneapolis

Dayton’s may once again be downtown’s cultural center

Updated: November 8, 2017 - 2:28 pm

Developers are planning a $190 million redo of the department store’s historic home

Developers are proposing to breathe new life into the former Dayton’s building as a future retail and entertainment hub of downtown Minneapolis.

The building’s new owner, New York-based developer 601w Cos., recently announced its plan to invest $250 million to buy and renovate the three-building complex on Nicollet Mall. The project would turn the approximately 1.2 million square feet of high-profile real estate into retail on the lowers levels, a festival food hall in the basement and offices with large floorplates by 2019.

“It’s a rare find in our business to discover such an historically significant building in a such a prized location. We fully understand its historical and cultural significance to the City of Minneapolis and the generations of Minnesotans who have experienced great memories here,” said Brian Whiting, President of The Telos Group, a partner on the project. “We are honored to be charged with the revival of the Dayton’s building, which we believe will once again take its place as the cultural and entertainment heart of Downtown for generations to come.”

Before it was Macy’s and before it was Marshall Field’s, the building at 7th & Nicollet was Dayton’s, and it has stayed that way in the memories of many Minnesotans across the original building’s 115-year-history. The redo, known as “The Dayton’s Project,” will bring back the store’s name to the building.

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The Bachelor Farmer and Askov Finlayson owner Eric Dayton, whose great-great-grandfather founded the department store, described it on Twitter as an “important and exciting project.”

“I’m proud to have our name attached,” he said.

Once complete in a couple years, the project will be one of the largest adaptive reuse developments in the country. Two sights in the building that may stick out in many a Minnesotan’s memory, the Art Deco-style women’s bathroom on the fourth floor and the original JB Hudson space on the first floor, will be preserved in the redevelopment.

About 80 construction workers led by general contractor Gardner Builders are already on the site daily to do the preliminary demolition and abatement work. Whiting called this time a “discovery phase” to uncover much of the aging infrastructure building. The development team estimates the project will create about 400 construction jobs.

The basement and first two floors will be home to dozens of fashion retailers, restaurants and entertainment companies across more than 200,000 square feet of the building.

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The Dayton’s building is no stranger to restaurants, having been home to the Oak Grill, the 12th-floor Skyroom and Signature Kitchen, among many other concepts that have come and gone throughout the building. Under the new proposal, the building will be home to a “dynamic” festival food hall on the lower level that the developers say will be home to artisanal food purveyors.

Unlike many buildings downtown that are closed on weekends, Whiting said they envision the skyway-accessible building being a venue open all week, including evenings.

Food halls are a trend nationwide and are growing locally. Minneapolis has had the Midtown Global Market — similarly built in a former department store space — for more than a decade. St. Paul will get its own downtown food hall with the Keg & Case Market next year in the former Schmidt brewery.

On the upper levels, the Dayton’s complex will have 750,000 square feet of first-class office space with “a style and amenities not seen prior in Minneapolis,” Whiting said.

The office floors, once home to the original Dayton’s offices, have large floorplates not found in other buildings in the city. Tenants may occupy as much as 90,000 square feet on some floors. Office workers will have access to a rooftop outdoor terrace with an indoor winter lounge, a quiet “library” space and a 10,000-square-foot full-service fitness center.

Erin Fitzgerald Wendorf, a principal at Transwestern, a firm managing the project, said these floors will be a “statement space” in attracting innovative tenants. While none have publically signed on to the project yet, Whiting said discussions with prospective clients are “very active” and the interest has been “extreme.”

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Construction is expected to begin next March. The office portion of the project is expected to open at the beginning of 2019, although early tenancy may start late next year. The commercial floors could open as soon as the second or third quarter of 2019.

Majority owner 601w Cos. purchased the building for $59 million earlier this year. The development team includes Nicollet Mall-based United Properties and Telos Group of Chicago. Architecture firm Gensler Minneapolis designed the project.

“This project reflects the historical significance of the building while adding a respectful but progressive design to create dynamic and relevant environments for today’s workforce and the downtown Minneapolis community,” said Steve Bieringer, a senior design manager at Gensler.

Now vacant, the building may eventually be home to an estimated 4,000 employees.

Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Downtown Improvement District, said the Dayton’s project and the redesigned Nicollet Mall may lead to more interest in the heart of the city.

“To me, this one-two punch is going to tremendous for our downtown and send a signal that we’re open for other retail and other entertainment business along Nicollet,” he said.

Most of the windows around the Dayton's building, including the characteristic circular windows on the corner, were covered until the development team's discovery phase. Photo by Eric Best
Most of the windows around the Dayton’s building, including the characteristic circular windows on the corner, were covered until the development team’s discovery phase. Photo by Eric Best