Crews are peeling back the layers of the downtown landmark
The former Dayton’s department store building is being prepared for its $190 million makeover as developers refine their vision of the downtown landmark.
Lead architecture firm Gensler Minneapolis has released updated concepts of the Dayton’s Project, which has so far seen months of demolition to uncover the buildings’ original charms.
Mementos are often found on the project where crews have a trophy case in their field office filled with pieces of the site’s past as the Macy’s and Dayton’s department stores. General contractor Gardner Builders uncovered a marble fountain behind a wall and found department store Easter eggs in their original box. CEO Bob Gardner called them “delightful surprises.”
“This is a jewel of Minneapolis so we want to make sure we do things right,” he said.
Each day more than 100 people are doing environmental remediation and non-structural demolition in the three-building complex on Nicollet Mall, though that will ramp up to 300 workers this June when construction activity is in full swing. So far workers have gutted much of the buildings, taking down old pipes and ducts to reveal windows and scrapping up layers of flooring to expose wood and terrazzo floors.
“It’s been great to continue to peel back layers and layers of building and remodeling and retailing over the years to see what we find,” said Steve Bieringer, senior design manager with Gensler Minneapolis. “It is truly amazing how the building evolved and changed over time as retailing changed in this area.”
So far more than 36,000 cubic yards of debris have been taken out of the buildings and 75 percent of that has been recycled. Bieringer said part of the work is determining what must be preserved and what other pieces they can incorporate back into the project with new purposes, such as vintage escalator parts.
“Everything that we’re finding is being thoughtfully put into the project,” Gardner said.
There’s still a lot of work left to go before the summer of 2019 when the Dayton’s Project is supposed to be ready for tenants. Crews have yet to touch the exterior, replace windows or build a new deck.
Gardner said the historic bones of the complex are strong, though crews will need to strengthen columns before additions are put in place. Parts of the wooden foundation of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, which was built on the site 135 years ago, can still be found beneath the complex.
“You look at that and you’re like ‘Really? This is amazing,’” Gardner said.
Eventually the developers hope to get the complex listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The project team is working with the State Historic Preservation Office to maintain the building’s “1920s art-deco feel,” which has informed the latest design.
The developers have yet to announce tenants beyond a lower-level food hall spearheaded by chef and TV personality Andrew Zimmern and Robert Montwaid. Bieringer said he’s heard plenty of interest in the Dayton’s Project, which boasts floor plates of up to 90,000 square feet.
“It’s an exciting project to be a part of,” he said.