At a grand opening party for Mill District City Apartments Tuesday night in downtown Minneapolis I got a little preview of the city's newest luxury apartments. It was a total Mary Tyler Moore-meets-the-Jetsons experience. The building exterior, designed and built by Village Green Companies to fit inconspicuously into the historic Mill District clearly borrows elements from the historic buildings that surround it right down to a love-it-or-hate mix of buff and chocolate-colored bricks that match the buildings next door. Inside, it's a completely different experience. Every surface vibrates with with color, texture and pattern and none of it matches - an intentional effort to create common spaces that will appeal to both an older demographic that remembers and appreciates the swoopy 60s, as well as a younger set that can appreciate the retro-whimsy palatte. And those club-like common areas ramble on and on in the way of a big two-story lobby and a fitness center that includes a well-equpped workout room and a indoor pool that becomes an outdoor pool when the retractable roof is pulled back. There's also a movie screen that's projected on an inside wall when it's cold and on outside wall when it's warm. Garage-style common space doors open to a park and outdoor lounge. The place is full of interesting bits of design and technology aimed at setting the bar a whole lot higher for today's renters, many of whom are renters by choice, not necessity.
The building meets green standards set by the National Association of Home Builders including individually metered HVAC systems that make renters more conscious of how much they're consuming, and extensive use of reclaimed wood. And they don't just tolerate dogs, they embrace them with an indoor dog wash and dedicated outdoor pet runs. Speaking of dogs, Minneapolis City Council member Lisa Goodman's fluffy blonde dog, Sadie, caused a few chuckles when she (the dog), dashed for the snacks while Goodman, Village Green CEO Jonathan Holtzman and others talked about the challenges of developing such a project during tough economic times.
Highlight of the night for me was finding out that the building is going to get a new restuarant at the corner of Washington and Portland Avenues, which will include lots of outdoor seating. Someone in the know let it slip that the restaurant will have an Asian theme, but no names were revealed. And Holtzman reiterated what I've heard before: He's seriously considering another new apartment building in Minneapolis, but wouldn't say where. Village Green, a Michigan-based company, already has five Twin Cities properties.