With downtown Minneapolis at the center of a seemingly never-ending wave of new apartment construction, competition is fierce among builders to set their products apart — and that has triggered what can only be described as an “amenities arms race.”
Club rooms, meeting spaces, fitness areas, penthouse lounges with stunning views, dog runs, bike shops. The list of apartment amenities is getting longer and their design concepts are becoming bolder as owners chase after an increasingly discriminating pool of renters.
Minneapolis-based Alatus LLC and ESG Architects might be the current titleholders of amenity kings, however, with their recently opened Latitude 45 apartments at 313 Washington Av. S. At least, that seemed to be the opinion of a group of interior design professionals who toured the project this week and came away impressed with the sophisticated design elements employed throughout.
Opened last fall with 318 upscale units and 10,000 square feet of first-floor retail (including the Eastside restaurant and Massage Envy spa), Latitude 45 is one of downtown’s priciest rental properties at around $2.50 per square foot. It also boasts one of the most visually appealing interiors in a downtown property and an extensive stack of amenities.
That list includes a heated, four-season outdoor “dog oasis”; a private indoor bike/rider lounge, complete with tools and repair equipment; a penthouse-level sky lounge providing views of the Mississippi River and the 3rd Avenue Bridge; and an outdoor terrace with pool, cabanas, fire pits, grilling stations, a movie screening area and lawn bowling.
Now at 80 percent occupancy, the property is being marketed to all age ranges. The need to appeal to a broad range of tenants informed its design choices, Megan Eckhoff of ESG Architects told members of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Northland Chapter during a tour.
“We were faced with a challenge with this particular location: It’s not the North Loop, it’s not Northeast, it’s not Uptown, it’s not East Town,” she said. “It’s really kind of a crossroads of neighborhoods, so we’re not looking for a warehouse vibe or something for trendy Uptown 20-year-olds. We needed something that catered to a variety of demographics — something that acknowledges a crossroads in life.”
The ultimate result, Eckhoff said, was a design that evokes the feel of a boutique hotel, with exposed concrete columns, hardwood flooring in public areas and an emphasis on “honest materials that will stand the test of time: They’re not overly trendy, but are still fresh and new.”
Some of the unusual design touches include the use of recurring tetragonal metalwork patterns in the common areas, an “art wall” in the fireplace lounge, couches and mini-fridge in a raw-feeling bike lounge off the parking ramp and octagonal tile in the entryway.
“What we’ve done is blend ‘third place’ interior design ideas that can relate to offices, ‘work-life’ spaces and hotels,” she added.
The pros of the IIDA agreed Latitude 45 has raised the design bar for apartments in the Twin Cities.
“I love all the furniture in the outdoor areas, their dog spa, the two different unit floor plans,” said LuAnne Zilka, a commercial interior designer at Alternative Business Furniture in Eden Prairie. “The finishes are fabulous, and I like the use of different colors of carpet tiles to contrast against the walls. There’s a lot of attention to detail.”
“In the boutique hotel market they’re building in whatever is the hottest, newest thing, and now you’re seeing that seep into building spaces,” added Laura Dyer, owner of Dyer Designs in River Falls, Wis. “They’re already thinking about the next new thing. There’s a lot of competition, especially in Minneapolis, where there are so many new living spaces right downtown.”
Don Jacobson is a freelance writer based in St. Paul. He is the former editor of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Real Estate Journal.