It has been argued that Minneapolis is one of the most liveable cities in the world. A rejuvenated rustbelt river city, it gets high marks for it’s close connection to surrounding nature, it’s revived cultural institutions and it’s renowned environmental success.

image courtesy of flickr user Andrew Olson


At times when cities compete with features and faces of the new, the voice of Minneapolis is looking to accent. With the somewhat newfound identity as a river city, the urban area is rebuilding its riverfronts, bustling with bike-riders and strolling suburban families. What begun as a lazy prairie river has now become a newfound urban passageway for business, newcomers and tourists.

In Minnesota, the Mississippi river flows through valleys, woodlands and Minneapolis, allowing the urban dweller to enjoy a wide range of both urban and natural amenities. Proceeding through the city, the riverbank supplies public spaces and recreational areas but most importantly connects. The city tells a tale of inhabitants being connected to both the surrounding nature and to each other.

From the neighborhoods of East Side of St.Paul and North Minneapolis, as well as suburban areas the restoration of Minneapolis as a river town engages the city, ensuring the economic vitality of the region.

  • 1850s

    Lumber, flour, saw milling and the dam.
    Saw milling and flour milling around the St. Anthony Falls both proved financially rewarding, establishing the area as a significant commercial district.
  • 1864 + 1872

    The first major bank in the area was the First National Bank of Minneapolis in 1864. The Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis was chartered in 1872
  • 1870s

    Flour milling and Washburn A Mill
    Within a few decades the mills that were clustered around St. Anthony Falls led the world in the production of lumber and flour. Washburn A Mill’s "A" Mill built dominated the industry and became the pride of the city.
  • 1880s

    Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce makes it a major financial center for the US and world.
    The Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce (later to be named the Minneapolis Grain Exchange) was established in 1881 to purchase grain from the Midwest region and ship it to the East. By 1885, Minneapolis was the number one wheat receiving market in the United States. Minneapolis eventually became, and remains today, the largest cash exchange market in the world.
  • Early 20th Century

    Minneapolis lost its place as the world’s largest flour producer.
  • 1914

    Minneapolis becomes important financial center
    Minneapolis was recognized as an important financial center in 1914 when the City became the headquarters of the Ninth Federal Reserve District, which consists of Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, northwestern Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
  • 1927

    Honeywell formed and was headquartered in Minneapolis. Honeywell went on to become a Fortune 500 company, and was based in Minneapolis until late 1999.
  • Pre-Depression

    Banks help Minneapolis fair well during Depression
    Two large bank-holding companies were formed a few months prior to the stock market collapse. The Northwestern National Bank formed the Northwest Bank Corporation (now Wells Fargo) in February, 1929. The First Bank Stock Corporation (now US Bankcorp) was put together by the First National Banks of St. Paul and Minneapolis the same year. During the Depression, not a single affiliate of these two holding companies closed its doors.
  • 1949

    Medtronic Inc. Medtronic, founded in 1949 in Minneapolis by Earl Bakken, is still one of the leading medical technology companies in the world. The state's medical technology industry, referred to as the "Medical Alley," owes much to the University of Minnesota medical school.
  • 1960s – 1980s

    In the 1960s and 1970s the city had a strong computer hardware manufacturing industry, bolstered by such giants as Honeywell and Control Data Corporation. Although not headquartered in Minneapolis, Control Data had a major presence in the city at a Northside manufacturing plant, which company founder William Norris started to provide employment and economic development for that part of the city.
  • 1962

    The first all-weather pedestrian skyway was built in 1962, spanning 7th Street South between Marquette and 2nd Avenue. Today more than 50 blocks are connected by these second story walkways. In addition to providing all-season convenience for downtown residents, employees, and visitors, the skyway system connects numerous and varied retail outlets. It is reported that downtown Minneapolis has more retail outlets in a four-block area than any other city in the country.
  • 2000 – 2001

    One of the most important retailers headquartered in Minneapolis is Dayton Hudson Corporation, which in January 2000 changed its corporate name to Target. From its beginnings in 1902, Dayton Hudson had by the late 1990s grown to be the fourth largest retailer in the United States, with stores in 38 states. The company is legendary for its philanthropy, contributing to a wide variety of charitable organizations, and is also recognized for corporate responsibility in other areas and good management. In 2001, the stores formerly known as Dayton's, owned by Target Corporation, were renamed Marshall Field's.


Minneapolis is striving for a liveable, green, connected, welcoming and exciting city. To meet expectations, the plan, initiated by the council to assist city leaders and citizens, is focusing their effort to re-energizing the downtown area, maintaining a strong economy in the central business district.

Learn More here


In a new 2013 initiative, a modernized Nicollet Mall is planned with a 1 mile long public streetscape enhancing the promenade and the atmosphere of the downtown area. Led by the Minneapolis Downtown council and the City of Minneapolis, the renovation awarded to the James Corner Field Operations and team, will further establish Minneapolis’s reputation as one of the America’s most dynamic and progressive cities.



This number represents the direct vacant space – if subleased space is included the vacancy rate jumps to 41.7% for the CBD. Per Colliers 2nd Quarter 2013 report, there is 450,000+ SF of direct vacant space in Minneapolis’ CBD. Average vacancy rates for retail across the entire Metro region are significantly lower, at 6.2%, with stronger investment in suburban locations.



Class A is holding strongest, with Class B at 15.4% vacant and Class C at 11.5% vacant (direct). Per Colliers 2nd Quarter 2013 report, 1.4 million SF of Class A office space is currently

available in Minneapolis. Average vacancy rates across the entire region are 12.7% for Class A, and 12.9% averaging A, B and C together.

  • IDS Center & Crystal Court


    The IDS Tower and Crystal Court designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee was built in 1973. It was Minneapolis’ first modern sky scraper at 57 stories. The full block podium and Crystal Court is universally recognized as having a gracious urban presence - described by Larry Millet as the longstanding ‘crossroads of downtown’. The open atrium connects the crossing of 4 skyways and 4 access points to the street grid. The property - which changed hands in 2013 - had a 12% office vacancy rate in late 2013 and a 0% retail/podium vacancy rate. In combination with the 282 Marquette Hotel - and broad spectrum of retail and service tenants and year round community / public atrium programming it maintains a very high standard for mixed-use success and good urban form.
  • Butler Square


    The Butler Brothers Warehouse on the western edge of downtown was designed by Harry Jones in 1906. in A976 - the former Medieval appearing warehouse was renovated for office and retail uses. The heavy timber structure was opened up to include two atria. The renovation of the building at this time - was unique in Minneapolis. The heavy timber interior framed atrium was an historic public room at the industrial edge and partner to the modern Crystal Court 5 blocks away. Today - the remarkable interior feels dated and office and retail vacancy rates have climbed. Now surrounded by entertainment and dining venues, blocks from the Gen-x housing of the North Loop, and the adjacent Target Center (Arena) and Target Field (Baseball stadium) this property is poised for it’s third renaissance. The unique ‘loft style’ office space and light filled atria - needs a physical refresh and will benefit from an intensified Super-Mix at the Street, Skyway and Lower Levels that will support and appeal to creative consulting and start-ups.
  • 33 South Sixth Street & City Center


    Designed by SOM in 1983 - Larry Millett (AIA GUide to the Twin Cities) describes it aptly “This big architectural oaf was plunked down on the city’s 100 percent corner in 1983 with no apparent regard for the niceties of urban design.” It is indeed fortress-like and has suffered on and off for 30 years. It stands as an object lesson - begging to be hacked. In late 2013 the tower is nearly 100% leased - the podium is nearly 33% vacant. The streetscapes and adjacent properties struggle as a result of poor design and poor retail level occupancy at the street and skyway level. The adjacent bus stop is recognized as one of the most dangerous in downtown. We examine the exterior envelope and urban position of this Case further later in this document.
  • Gaviidae Common 1


    Modeled on the the retail arcades of the 19th century - this 5 story half block building was designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates and built in 1989. Tailored to serve the 1980’s surge of office development, the project was geared to be an upscale shopping destination. Just across the street from the IDS Crystal Court - it provides a compact ‘arcade’ experience - strung by skyway to the IDS. Unfortunately 5 stories of retail and dining - 3 of them above the skyway level could not be sustained. We are working with the building’s management team to refresh and reposition the building. One of the strategies is to introduce multi-tenant office programming into the upper 3 floors of the former retail and dining spaces. This transformation will create a hybrid office - retail building - with access to an elegant atrium, roofdeck access for private offices and a great downtown address.
  • RBC Plaza & Gaviidae Common 2


    This retail and office complex designed by Lohan Associates was built in 1991. This project copies the Gaviidae Common multi-story retail strategy for another block. The original build-out included a multi story Department Store (Neiman Marcus) that anchored the retail proforma. Neiman Marcus closed-its’ doors in July of 2013 leaving 118,000sf of vacant retail. The artificially list interior atrium is compact. Once animated by a food court on the top floor - it now has a struggling retail component. The former Neiman Marcus space is slated to be come office space. Taking the anchor retail space out of the equation - a retail vacancy rate above 35% remains for the property . The ‘luxury’ retail mix envisioned in the Clinton era has not proven viable. Post recession, post down-town population surge - the challenge to expand the Mix for a changed 365 day, 24-7 cycle is here.
image courtesy of flickr user Kara Harms

Known as the second story town, Minneapolis is proud owners of the world’s largest skyway system, built on the success of Les park’s experiment in 1962. Connecting 80 blocks through a climate-controlled rhizome of walkways above ground, the skyway extends over eight miles. With new plans in place for a major eastward expansion, the successful skyway will connect the downtown core with the eastern Viking stadium. The expanded skyway system has the potential to be a major draw to provide a convenient connection across downtown podiums and as well as keeping the city alive beyond 8-5. While real estate data suggesting a trend of decreasing building amenities, the East Skyway is providing an original connection to the city and a great opportunity for tenants to stay and re-develop their properties in a new setting.

  • Using the Podium to Create Programmatic Synergies

    Solution: SuperMix

    Synergies that connect sidewalk experience, skyway experience. Work, Life, Play, and finding the right balance between them. Minneapolis’ Skyway System has the potential to be a major draw to providing a convenient connection between unique experiences across downtown podiums and keeping the city alive beyond 8-5.
  • Create Programmatic Synergies: Curated & Professional Retail

    Solution: SuperMix

    With the potential to give consumers a new hands-on experience in customizing their own products, and strong support for online handmade goods available on Etsy and similar websites, we see an opportunity for new retail typologies that could be smaller in size but with an elevated display presence.
  • Professional Library & Consultation Incubating New Business

    Solution: SuperMix

    Using Case 3: City Center we propose a Professional Library / Legal Aid facility as a shared amenity/tenant. This program would provide alternative space within the building but separate and support desirable start-up tenants in need of light legal consultation
  • Coworking & Amenities

    Solution: SuperMix

    Downtown Minneapolis’ 2025 plan predicts new job growth will come less from large firms with personalized high-end space, and more from lower-cost consultants and start-up companies. Co-working space would be an ideal addition to office space options in the CBD.
  • Health & Fitness

    Solution: SuperMix

    As downtown transforms with an influx of new - younger residents - the year round skyway could connect residents, workers and visitors to a hub for health and fitness. Wellbeing and wellness - broadly cast for businesses means supporting a healthy lifestyle that provides life/work balance.

Gaviidae Common

Case Study

Inside the grid of the city’s Skyway System, interestingly interconnecting retail and offices, is the new Gaviidea Common, an upscale shopping mall now fitted with new office spaces in previous retail interiors. Placed in the tallest skyscraper in the city, in the heart of Downtown Minneapolis, Gaviidea is reinventing the urban office experience by transforming retail to office – keeping the connection to the public atrium.


    The generous 17’ floor to floor heights allow 13’ clear office section - yielding flexibility and opportunities for spatial configurations not supported in a typical commercial office building. The shared light, refreshed atrium offers visual presence for office tenants as well as a physical and visual connection to retail and additional services below on the 2nd floor and street level. An office only ‘sky lounge’ provides a unique overlook and amenity space below the vaulted ceiling.

    The generous 17’ floor to floor heights allow 13’ clear office section - yielding flexibility and opportunities for spatial configurations not supported in a typical commercial office building. The shared light, refreshed atrium offers visual presence for office tenants as well as a physical and visual connection to retail and additional services below on the 2nd floor and street level. An office only ‘sky lounge’ provides a unique overlook and amenity space below the vaulted ceiling.

The new atrium offers a visual presence for tenants as well as a physical connection to services below.

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