The Architecture Billings Index, a measurement of demand for design services, softened in January after a strong 2014.

And while economists say the slowdown may be due to harsh winter weather, it is also concerning for the construction industry. The ABI indicates the level of new construction that can be expected in the next nine to 12 months.

"The easing in demand for design services is a bit of a surprise given the overall strength of the market over the past nine months," said Kermit Baker, chief economist for the American Institute of Architects, in a prepared statement.

The national ABI score for January was 49.9, down from December's 52.7. The index uses 50 to represent flat activity while anything about that is seen as an increase in demand for design services.

Regionally, the Midwest fared a bit better with a score of 50.8. The South still had a strong month with 54.8 while the West and Northeast both dropped to 49.3 and 46.0, respectively. ABI's regional data is based on a three-month average ending in January.

"Likely some of this can be attributed to severe weather conditions in January," Baker continued. "We will have a better sense if there is a reason for more serious concern over the next couple of months."

Public meets Nicollet Hotel Block project

The Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association's meeting Monday night served as the first public forum for the Nicollet Hotel Block project, attracting hundreds of residents.

Both the project architect, LHB's Bruce Cornwall, and Bill Katter, executive vice president of United Properties, the master developer on the ambitious plan, outlined the team's vision and fielded questions posed by residents.

Katter debunked rumors that United was open to adding a dozen or more floors to its plan. The team also revealed more design elements that are becoming evermore detailed as the team has more time to work on its drawings.

A considerable amount of coordination is underway to help activate Cancer Survivors Park across the mall from this site. The team is looking to place a performance platform, dubbed Upper Garden Plaza, on the edge of Cancer Survivors Park to draw pedestrians across the street.

Of course, none of the details are final as feasibility studies, budgets and city approvals must still be addressed.