Three years after selling its longtime headquarters to a pair of developers, the Sons of Norway has a new home. But the address will remain the same: 1455 W. Lake St. in Minneapolis.
This summer, the international cultural and financial-services organization moved into a 15,000 square-foot space in Daymark Uptown, one of the biggest mixed-use developments in Uptown in at least a decade and likely the only one with a “fjord,” a flexy outdoor space that will be a winter ice rink and a warm-weather gathering space for residents and neighbors.
The Sons of Norway is hunkered down in a first-floor space in one of two new buildings with a combined 318 rental apartments, 25,000 square feet of commercial space and nearly 12,000 square feet of outdoor space. The project is situated on a more than 2-acre parcel that had been the international headquarters of the Sons of Norway since 1962 in what had become a high-profile spot along Lake Street in the heart of the Uptown neighborhood.
“The Daymark site was an incredibly unique opportunity as there have not been any development parcels this large in Uptown that are west of Hennepin Avenue,” said Greg Cerbana, a vice president at Weidner Apartment Homes.
In August 2017, after a long search for a suitable buyer, the Sons of Norway said it would sell the property to Ryan Cos., which served as the developer, designer and builder, and Weidner Apartment Homes, which will manage the project. The $16.8 million deal closed in mid March 2018.
Eivind Heiberg, the former CEO of Sons of Norway, said at the time that the sale was warranted by the challenges of managing an aging 60,000 square-foot building. And given the desirability of the area — and the lack of large developable parcels — it was prime time for a sale that would help boost the organization’s finances.
“It was time to make the most forward-thinking decision for the long-term health of our organization, employees and the community,” Heiberg said in a statement in 2018.
Given the height and density of the Ryan/Weidner proposal, which is about double the height of the Sons of Norway building, the project wasn’t without detractors. Some neighbors complained that the project was out of scale for the neighborhood and would increase congestion. Ryan A + E designed the two buildings with six distinct building facade styles in an effort to downplay their visual massing in a way that’s more consistent with the character of the surrounding neighborhood. A 30-foot tall steeple-like cupola anchors the corner where two wings of a building front Lake Street.
The project comes at an especially competitive time in the market.
Mary Bujold, president of Maxfield Research, said that while the rental market in Uptown is still good, it remains “somewhat soft” in the wake of a development boom that has added thousands of units over the past several years.
“The location is one of the best and highly walkable with convenient access to transit, groceries, entertainment and all kinds of services,” she said.
Still, developers are offering more rental concessions, especially in the Uptown and Downtown neighborhoods, she said.
Like many urban apartment operators, Daymark is offering rental incentives including its “Stay Awhile Leasing Program,” which includes two months of free rent on a two-year lease and incentives for those who rent 24-hours after touring the property.
The developers said Daymark has a wide range of unit sizes to attract a broad spectrum of people who want to live and work in the neighborhood, including penthouses that will fetch monthly rents topping $5,000. The project also includes a relatively unusual offering: “urban studios.” Those 374 square-foot units have slimmed down kitchens with microwaves and compact refrigerator/freezers, but no range or in-unit washer and dryer. Occupants will have access to a shared community with a full-size kitchen, laundry facilities and balcony.
That concept is more common, Bujold said, in student-housing projects.
The developers said the ultraefficient design of those units appeals to a demographic that’s looking to downsize and simplify their life, but who still want to take advantage of all the benefits of living in a thriving, urban environment. Despite COVID-19’s upending of many of those benefits, to date, Daymark said it has leased 30% of its urban studios.
Weidner is one of the largest developers and property-management companies in the country. Based in Kirkland, Wash., it has an office in the Twin Cities, where it has developed several projects over the past several years.
Daymark isn’t the first deal for the partnership. In 2013 Ryan Cos. and another local company codeveloped 222 Hennepin, a mixed-use project that includes rentals and a Whole Foods store at the corner of Washington and Hennepin Avenues in downtown Minneapolis. Weidner acquired that project in 2017. And both have made a long-term commitment to the Highland Bridge project (the former Ford site) in St. Paul.
“The companies continue to look at opportunities for new projects,” Cerbana said. “Particularly in markets that Weidner is already established in.”