Capella Tower sports a cap, but it can’t topple the IDS

  • Article by: NICK COLEMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 24, 2008 - 12:01 AM

Minneapolis has three tallish buildings, all of which -- like good Minnesota boys -- are almost exactly the same size. That way, grandma can't pick a favorite.

The IDS Center, despite what you may have heard recently, is officially still tallest of our Big Boys, as determined by various architectural authorities, including www.emporis.com, which maintains building data from around the world, and says the IDS, which opened in 1973, is 792 feet high.

The tiresome issue of Who Is Biggest has arisen again because the social climber known as 225 South Sixth, which has gone through previous lives as the First Bank Tower and the U.S. Bank Tower, keeps trying to snatch the title away.

Last week, we learned that the building is getting a new name, Capella Tower, Capella being Italian for "What-ever." That makes four names in 16 years, so it should be no surprise that a building that can't keep its name straight can't remember how tall it is, either.

Emporis has committees that review such things as heights.

According to Emporis, the Whatever is 776 feet high, good for 183rd on the world list, and 16 feet shorter than the IDS. Somehow, however, claims keep popping up that it is the tallest in the city, which it is not. More on that below.

There is also the handsomest, and shortest, of our boys, Cesar Pelli's Wells Fargo (née Norwest) Center, which comes in at 774 feet, ranking 187 worldwide.

Minneapolis falls behind

This is a good point to add some perspective. We only think of our tall buildings as tall because they are bigger than the corn cribs on grandpa and grandma's farm and even taller than the fancy silo they put up in 1972. But in the context of big buildings, we are still Little Houses on the Prairie.

And getting littler.

In the 1970s, we used to brag that the IDS was the tallest building between Chicago and the West Coast. But that's only still true if you ignore five taller buildings in Houston and Dallas. Even Indianapolis has a skyscraper taller than us now.

Indianapolis? The shame.

We're so far behind that if we stood all three of our guys on top of each other, we would still be short (by 300 feet) of a tower under construction in Dubai that is scheduled to open next year at 2,684 feet. We're so short that even The Donald's cheesy building Trumps us easily: (Trump Tower, No. 86, 861 feet).

City needs a tie-breaker

Like most cities, we have edifice envy. But the way we have dealt with it since the IDS went up -- trying to stand tall without standing out -- is wrong. Minneapolis needs a skyscraper to come along and break the three-way stalemate in this town and make a mark on the skyline that will stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

It's time to think big thoughts. And to start trying to take the Tall Title from the IDS the honorable way -- by actually building something taller.

The IDS was 775.6 feet from the sidewalk to the top of the parapet when it opened. The Whatever Tower was 774, to the top of the steel crown or Frisbee that tops the place and stands 45 feet above the roof. In recent years, building officials have claimed they went a couple of feet higher to surpass the IDS, 776 to 775, but that they didn't proclaim their supremacy "out of respect."

Minnesota nice run amok. That stuff makes you crazy.

If the Whatever Tower is going to count The Frisbee, the IDS Center gets to count the "garage" it added to its roof to house its window-washing equipment. That isn't my opinion. That's what Emporis decided in 2005, officially restoring the IDS to its Tallest position.

Nothing has changed since.

The IDS is 792 feet, with garage. The Whatever Tower is 776, including Frisbee. The Wells Fargo Center, the best-behaved of the bunch, is the runt of the litter at 774.

Brothers at a picnic

The reality, however, is that they are all so close to each other that, like brothers at a Sunday-school picnic, you can't tell them apart from a distance.

Some, of course, say size doesn't matter. Including a spokesman for the IDS, the tallest. Easy for them to say.

"There's only one IDS," says Jim Durda, vice president and general manager of the building's owner, Inland American Real Estate Trust, which bought the IDS in 2006. "People have called the IDS the 'iconic centerpiece of the Minneapolis skyline' and the main Minneapolis landmark."

I think Durda is right. The Wells Fargo Center is the handsomest, the IDS is the prettiest (and the tallest). And the Whatever is the cheekiest.

We can like them all. But they need a big brother.

A really big one.

Nick Coleman • ncoleman@startribune.com

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