8050 W. 78th St., Edina

Type: Office

Size: 35,000 square feet

Height: Five stories

Architects: DJR Architecture Inc.

Details: There aren't many big, new office buildings springing up around the Twin Cities in this era of frozen capital markets and cautious corporate office users, but a major exception will soon get underway in Edina.

The Hellmuth & Johnson law firm has gotten city approvals to proceed with a new, high-profile headquarters building in the northeast quadrant of the Interstate 494-Hwy. 169 interchange, where the firm will build a striking 35,000-square-foot structure on an cozy 2.4-acre parcel of vacant land fronting I-494.

Its design is notable because it calls for three stories of above-ground parking topped by two stories of legal offices, made necessary because of the high water table on the lot, most of which is composed of wetlands that border Braemar Golf Course. The law firm has chosen to build the structure entirely upon pilings and grade beams -- something that's highly unusual for new suburban construction, said project architect Dean Dovolis of DJR Architecture Inc.

"Hellmuth & Johnson wanted to do an environmentally responsible building that would not affect any of the wetlands on the site, which meant no excavation for underground parking," he said. "Instead, the parking will all be above-ground, with offices above it, which really keeps the site unaffected."

Dovolis said the project had to pass a rigorous review by the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District, and also needed to obtain a height variance from Edina city officials because of the unusual parking setup, which the architect said is among the first of its kind in the city.

The law firm, he said, is willing to pay the higher construction costs both because its principals wanted to make a "green" statement with their new headquarters and to take advantage of the unequaled exposure the property will provide at the busy freeway intersection.

"They're expanding from 70 to 100 employees, bringing those jobs [from Eden Prairie] to Edina, and they feel this building will establish the public perception of them as one of the Twin Cities' major law firms," Dovolis said.


Don Jacobson, a freelance writer based in St. Paul, can be contacted at hotproperty.startribune@gmail.com.