Just Listed brings you the latest news and information from the Twin Cities-area commercial and residential real estate market and beyond from veteran reporters Jim Buchta and Kristen Leigh Painter.

Posts about Architecture

U.S. Architecture Billings Index rise in 2014

Posted by: Kristen Leigh Painter Updated: January 21, 2015 - 4:59 PM

The Architecture Billings Index, a measurement of demand for non-residential design services, rose in December -- the tenth month of growth in the U.S. last year.

One of many national economic indicators related to development, the index provides a glimpse 9 to 12 months before construction spending is reported.

December's ABI score was 52.2, up from November's 50.9. The index uses 50 as flat activity and anything above that is viewed as an increase in demand.

As for broader economic implications, AIA's chief economist Kermit Baker says the last stalwart resisting the post-recession construction boom has been public buildings.

"Particularly encouraging is the continued solid upturn in design activity at institutional firms, since public sector facilities were the last nonresidential building project type to recover from the downturn," Baker said in a statement.

The U.S. as a whole saw more months of growth than contraction in 2014, with architectural billings dipping only two months out of 12.

The regional averages provide a more honed narrative. The strongest December growth was concentrated in the South, 56.8, and West, 52.9. Meanwhile, the Midwest hovered slightly above neutral with a score of 50.8, and the Northeast pulled down the national average at a decrease in demand of 45.5.


Update: New designs for Superior Plating site in Northeast Minneapolis get a nod from neighborhood task force

Posted by: Jim Buchta Updated: January 22, 2015 - 9:34 AM

Update: Wednesday evening the task force approved the latest designs, and pending additional neighborhood and municapal approvals, the developer hopes to break ground this fall.

Lennar Multifamily has unveiled new designs for its proposed redevelopment of a once-polluted two-block site in Northeast Minneapolis, and will seek approval from a neighborhood task force Wednesday evening to proceed with the project. The latest plan (click here to see more renderings) calls for a 18-story apartment tower with a mostly glass facade and a swooping shape that creates curved wrap-around balconies. The project will include a low-rise apartment building atop commercial/retail space and a restaurant, and it was designed by Elness Swenson Graham Architects in Minneapolis.

The two-block site is at the corner of First and University Avenues just a few blocks from the Mississipp River. Other developers have come forward with plans for the site, but a neighborhood group has held out for a high-density project that will make a strong design statement.

Lenna Multifamily is a Chicago-based division of a national home builder that until recently has focused on building single-family homes. The company is also working on an apartment project near Southdale in Edina. Lennar's latest proposal is only for one of two adjacent blocks that have been cleared for redevelopment. Lennar extended a purchase agreement set to expire January 7, but is now working toward a February 6 "notice to proceed" deadline before a closing will be scheduled. We'll have a full report on Lennar's presentation and the task force's recommendations in the Bricks and Mortar page in the Friday Star Tribune.

New leadership at Builders Association of the Twin Cities

Posted by: Jim Buchta Updated: January 16, 2015 - 8:04 AM

The Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC), the trade group that represents metro-area homebuilders, has a new board of directors and a new president with something of a sparkling résumé. Chris Contreras, vice president of sales and marketing for Ryland Homes in Eden Prairie, was elected by the group’s membership to a yearlong term as the association’s president. His duties will include leading a 17-member board, and overseeing the activities of the 1,100-member trade association. 

BATC provides marketing, advocacy and networking opportunities for area builders. BATC runs the biannual Parade of Homes house and several other events aimed at promoting the industry. Contreras was sworn in by past president Curt Christensen, owner of Lee Lyn Construction. Contreras’ focus this year will be on increasing membership, advocacy and strengthening the association’s brand.

“Our industry is facing a number of very important challenges right now that could have a major dampening effect locally,” Contreras said. “We need to come together as BATC members and get involved to make sure our industries’ concerns are heard.” 

Before stepping into the homebuilding industry, Contreras worked for more than a decade as a regional manager for a large-volume jeweler. In 2003 he was a sales agent for Ryan Homes and joined Ryland Homes in 2004.

Contreras has served on a number of committees, including the Parade of Homes committee for three years, and the large-volume builder committee, which he chaired in 2011-2012. He served as BATC’s treasurer in 2013, and vice president in 2014.

He lives in Prior Lake with his wife, two children and extended family.

Target Field Station wins national design award

Posted by: Kristen Leigh Painter Updated: January 9, 2015 - 5:27 PM

The designers of Target Field Station won the nation's most prestigious architecture award for its work on the popular Minneapolis transit stop.

Target Field Station is one of 23 recipients of the 2015 Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design, The American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced Friday.

New York-based Perkins Eastman was the architectural firm that developed the light-rail station for Hennepin County. Several Twin Cities companies partnered in supporting roles on the project, including SEH, Parsons Electric, Michaud Cooley Erickson, Palanisami & Associates, Knutson Construction, TKDA and 4RM+ULA.

The judges note, "Target Field Station is one of the first spaces in the country to truly integrate transit and culture. The site’s Great Lawn provides a green stage for pregame events, community concerts, and other activities, and an urban plaza includes areas for restaurants and cultural and entertainment events."

Opened last summer, the $79.3-million rail hub was recognized for its role as an interchange for multiple modes of transportation, including light-rail, bus and bike.

AIA applauds Target Field Station for its adherence to the “open transit” principles, "beginning with its compression into a dense, high-quality series of interconnected experiences. This density created comfortable walking distances with clear sight lines, bringing the varying transit modes together; opened up the rest of the site to allow for future development." 

Meanwhile, a proposed future development, the construction of the Southwest light-rail line that would stretch from Target Field Station to Eden Prairie, has hit resistance at the State Capitol

City of Minneapolis recommends Hargreaves as landscape architect for Downtown East Park

Posted by: Kristen Leigh Painter Updated: January 9, 2015 - 5:00 PM

Minneapolis city staff are recommending the City Council approve a $1.8-million contract with Hargreaves Associates to design the Downtown East park adjacent to the new Vikings stadium. 
The San Francisco-based landscape architect was selected from three finalists, whittled down from 13 proposals, that competed on the project. 
City Council must approve the award for the 4.2-acre park, now called The Downtown East Commons. But first the item must move through the city’s Community Development and Regulatory Services committee on Jan. 14.
Some of company’s more notable projects include Discovery Green, a 12-acre park in Houston; Cumberland Park, a 6.5-acre park in Nashville; the recently-completed Denver Union Station, public plaza space totaling 8 acres; and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a massive 270-acre park built for the London Olympics in 2012.
The proposed park has faced several funding hurdles and will likely face more. But both city and downtown leadership have made it clear that they want to see a vibrant, dynamic park — not just a two-black stretch of grass. But Hargreaves’ roughly $2-million contract won’t come close to covering the costs to of doing so. Past estimates suggest a more robust vision for the park costing between $6.3 and $10.5 million. But Hargreaves’ budget, according to city documents, puts the grand total at $18.7 million.
Ryan Companies, the developer responsible for the entire five-block Downtown East project, kicked off a donation drive by pledging $200,000 in September to Greening Downtown Minneapolis — a 501(c)3 non-profit organization formed by the Minneapolis Downtown Council.
Greening Downtown Minneapolis (GDM) will spearhead the effort with a fundraising campaign.
“There couldn’t be a better choice of lead designer,” said David Wilson, head of GDM, in a statement. “Their experience with signature projects around the world is impressive, and their attention to stakeholder needs and commitment to genuine engagement through the design process is exactly in keeping with our expectation of how to best create an extraordinary place for our city.”
The design contract with Hargreaves will outline a timeline with benchmarks to keep development of the park on track for a summer 2016 opening. Stakeholders are proposing a two-phase process, the first being complete by the Vikings 2016 season and the second before Super Bowl 2018, hosted by Minneapolis.

Here's a timeline of the park's history:

  • Dec. 13, 2013 - City Council approves terms with Ryan and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) for entire Downtown East project
  • Feb. 14, 2014 - the City, Ryan and MSFA execute the development agreement for the five-block project, which provides the construction, financing and conveyance to the city of a cleared site with some basic improvements by July 1, 2016
  • February 2014 - the stakehoulders execute an Urban Park Use Agreement defining the rights of the MSFA and Minnesota Vikings use of Downtown East Commons
  • Aug. 29, 2014 - City Council accepts pre-development grant from the Met Council for design work on the Commons
  • September 2014 - a City Council-established park commitee develops parameters and vision for the park's design and programs
  • Dec. 11, 2014 - City Council approves a Memorandum of Understanding with Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board providing for conveyance and lease-back of the Commons

(Slideshow compiled by staff writer Eric Roper)

Developer proposing 80-story tower in Minneapolis provides details of team

Posted by: Kristen Leigh Painter Updated: December 17, 2014 - 2:28 PM

A new rendering courtesy of Duval Development, looking southwest down Hennepin Ave.

The reaction to news of an 80-story tower in downtown Minneapolis was swift and strong. Just as the shock-and-awe of the proposal wore off Wednesday, the developer offered a glimpse into his team, which is the root of his confidence.

Duval Development was one of four local developers to submit project bids for the highly visible Nicollet Hotel Block, a city-owned parcel in Minneapolis' Gateway District. 

Duval's ambitious proposal garnered intense public reaction as it would surpass Minnesota's tallest building, the IDS Center, by more than 100 feet. Critics say it will never happen for economic and market reasons while many urbanists argue it is an iconic design that would enhance the city's skyline and is therefore worth pursuing. 

Alex Duval, head of the development company, has provided the credentials and roles of his design team in an effort to clear up misunderstandings, he said.

Perkins + Will is a global architecture and design firm and is the lead design architect on Duval's project, called Nicollet Gateway. Ralph Johnson, the firm's global director of design, personally designed the 80-story tower featured in the proposal.

The company has a staff of 1,600 people in 24 locations worldwide, but its local office is seven blocks from the proposed site at Nicollet and 10th Street.

“The historic Nicollet Hotel block provides a unique opportunity for a design that is both contemporary and timeless – a building that is responsive to its public presence along the Nicollet Mall and engages with the city by creating a new focal point with its slender, striking scale,” Johnson said, in a statement. “This building will be an integral part of the city and will activate the street scape. It will be set back from the Mall to provide an expansive green public plaza, and will include an indoor/outdoor atrium and ground floor pedestrian amenities. Our aim is to help bring new energy and stronger links between the downtown business core and the Mississippi River, drawing increased pedestrian activity that will enhance the rich sense of community that is so distinctive to Minneapolis.”

Thornton Thomasetti is the structural engineer on the project and has a portfolio full of super-tall buildings across the globe. 

The New York-based firm designed the structure of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpar, the seventh-tallest buildings in the world at 1,483 feet, and were engineers of the complex systems of the Mall at the Burj Khalifa podium. Tomasetti is leading structural design of Kingdom Tower, currently under construction in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, which will overtake Burj Khalifa as the world’s tallest building when it is complete.

David Weihing is Tomasetti’s principal in charge of Nicollet Gateway Tower. While he has global experience on several of the firm's super-tall projects, he is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and was involved in the structural design of 50 South 6th St, an office building just a few blocks from the Nicollet site.

“Working on Nicollet Gateway Tower is kind of a homecoming for me personally, which is exciting, but more importantly, it is an example of the kind of catalytic projects Thornton Tomasetti is doing around the world," said David Weihing, in a statement. "We have seen how the creation of a high quality supertall building causes more buildings and investment to cluster around it in the cities where we are working.”

Cuningham Group is the project's landscape architect.The studio is led by David Motzenbecker, who was president of the City of Minneapolis Planning Commission, resigning in Jan. 2013. These experiences, Duval said, will help bridge policy and design.

“The Nicollet Gateway public realm is designed for health, beauty, recreation, and functional value," David Motzenbecker said. "Our team has designed a beautiful place that will support a diverse range of community activities year round in an environmentally sustainable manner.”


Of course, many super-tall buildings with a deep line-up of players never get built, and questions still linger about occupancy and financing of the project. But Duval said he will release that information when it is appropriate and in a way that does not undermine the integrity of the competition.

The other three well-established developers bidding on the project are Mortenson, Doran Development and United Properties -- all Twin Cities-based companies.


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