The latest project from Minneapolis developer Peter Remes of First & First is being readied for a major renovation set to begin within weeks.
First & First closed on a 90-year-old, 50,000-square-foot building across from International Market Square last year, one of a series of recent acquisitions of underutilized commercial structures Remes has targeted for reuse as tenant space for new businesses.
With the acquisition of a 140-space parking lot at the rear of the newly purchased building, Remes says he's ready to kick off a multimillion-dollar rehab of the interior and exterior of the structure, at 811 Glenwood Av.
The vision for his latest project is to capitalize on the presence of the International Market Square design to create a more urban-feeling version — its current first-floor anchor tenant is iSpace Furniture, which specializes in custom office designs.
"We have expansive, open floorplates on the second and third floors of the building, each of which are about 20,000 square feet, and which offer stunning views of downtown Minneapolis," Remes said. "With the big parking lot, we feel it's set up nicely for a single user who would be interested in taking the whole space."
A tour of the vacant upper floors this week revealed a staircase connecting them in the middle, which Remes said would make it ideal for one user.
Also part of the plans is a new restaurant for the building. Remes said he is in "deep discussions" with a potential taker.
His hopes of luring a large, single-office user are partly based on its location, which is becoming more strategic with transportation infrastructure improvements, such as last year's opening of the Van White Boulevard extension. The new one-mile stretch of road connects the Harrison and Bryn Mawr neighborhoods to Interstate 394 and neighborhoods to the south of the freeway.
"This new exit off of I-394 brings you right up to Glenwood, which is really working in favor of the neighborhood," he said, adding that the Van White station along the planned Southwest Corridor light rail line is also only a few blocks away.
The renovations will take advantage of the building's open exposure on all four sides, said First & First Development Manager Mark Vaida.
"The building already has a really beautiful facade from the 1920s that faces Glenwood, but the way the site is situated, all four facades are very visible, with parking all around," he said. "What we're trying to do is treat them with equal respect and refinement, so the building feels more unified."
The main work will be on the south side facing 2nd Avenue, which will feature a two-story lobby with extensive glasswork.
Landscaping, which is sorely lacking in the postindustrial streetscapes of the neighborhood, also will play a big role in the effort, with the aim of creating a green plaza on the south side of the building.
"That will really soften the sea of asphalt-meets-concrete that dominates the whole area," Vaida said. "There will be a lot of honey locust and maple trees going in, as well as green ground cover, and we anticipate that on weekends people coming from the Farmers Market will take advantage of it."
The color scheme from the building's 811 Glenwood logo will be used in other architectural elements in an effort to "kind of stitch everything together," he said.
Don Jacobson is a St. Paul-based freelance writer and former editor of the Minnesota Real Estate Journal. He has covered Twin Cities commercial real estate for about a decade.