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St. Paul Macy's designed by architect who did Southdale

  • Blog Post by: Janet Moore
  • September 19, 2013 - 10:37 AM

My colleague Kevin Duchschere and I wrote a story here about the apparent sale of the downtown Macy's store to City Center Realty Partners, a San Francisco firm with strong ties to the Twin Cities. The information was gleaned through a Minnesota Data Practices Act request of public documents, and city officials were a bit circumspect in commenting on the status of the store, which closed in March.

An interesting bit of information emerged in city documents regarding the design of the fortress-like building. The designer was pioneering mid-century architect Victor Gruen, the father of Southdale, the nation's first shopping mall. Who knew?

 “Both the architectural and preservation communities, especially the modernist movement will be watching as this story unfolds,” wrote Amy Spong, historic preservation specialist for the city’s Planning and Economic Development department, in a Jan. 15 email to St. Paul Planning and Economic Development Director Cecile Bedor.

Work by the late Gruen, who also designed the St. Paul Sears store (!), was often “misunderstood,” Spong wrote. “The city has an opportunity to take a completely different approach than most other cities and embrace the modern building by Gruen.”

A subsequent email from Craig Blakely of the city’s economic development department to planning officials indicated that gaining historic preservation status for the building “will only muddy the waters.” Presumably he was discussing future development of the site.

Janet Moore covers commercial real estate for the Star Tribune.

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