A new rendering courtesy of Duval Development, looking southwest down Hennepin Ave.

The reaction to news of an 80-story tower in downtown Minneapolis was swift and strong. Just as the shock-and-awe of the proposal wore off Wednesday, the developer offered a glimpse into his team, which is the root of his confidence.

Duval Development was one of four local developers to submit project bids for the highly visible Nicollet Hotel Block, a city-owned parcel in Minneapolis' Gateway District. 

Duval's ambitious proposal garnered intense public reaction as it would surpass Minnesota's tallest building, the IDS Center, by more than 100 feet. Critics say it will never happen for economic and market reasons while many urbanists argue it is an iconic design that would enhance the city's skyline and is therefore worth pursuing. 

Alex Duval, head of the development company, has provided the credentials and roles of his design team in an effort to clear up misunderstandings, he said.

Perkins + Will is a global architecture and design firm and is the lead design architect on Duval's project, called Nicollet Gateway. Ralph Johnson, the firm's global director of design, personally designed the 80-story tower featured in the proposal.

The company has a staff of 1,600 people in 24 locations worldwide, but its local office is seven blocks from the proposed site at Nicollet and 10th Street.

“The historic Nicollet Hotel block provides a unique opportunity for a design that is both contemporary and timeless – a building that is responsive to its public presence along the Nicollet Mall and engages with the city by creating a new focal point with its slender, striking scale,” Johnson said, in a statement. “This building will be an integral part of the city and will activate the street scape. It will be set back from the Mall to provide an expansive green public plaza, and will include an indoor/outdoor atrium and ground floor pedestrian amenities. Our aim is to help bring new energy and stronger links between the downtown business core and the Mississippi River, drawing increased pedestrian activity that will enhance the rich sense of community that is so distinctive to Minneapolis.”

Thornton Thomasetti is the structural engineer on the project and has a portfolio full of super-tall buildings across the globe. 

The New York-based firm designed the structure of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpar, the seventh-tallest buildings in the world at 1,483 feet, and were engineers of the complex systems of the Mall at the Burj Khalifa podium. Tomasetti is leading structural design of Kingdom Tower, currently under construction in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, which will overtake Burj Khalifa as the world’s tallest building when it is complete.

David Weihing is Tomasetti’s principal in charge of Nicollet Gateway Tower. While he has global experience on several of the firm's super-tall projects, he is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and was involved in the structural design of 50 South 6th St, an office building just a few blocks from the Nicollet site.

“Working on Nicollet Gateway Tower is kind of a homecoming for me personally, which is exciting, but more importantly, it is an example of the kind of catalytic projects Thornton Tomasetti is doing around the world," said David Weihing, in a statement. "We have seen how the creation of a high quality supertall building causes more buildings and investment to cluster around it in the cities where we are working.”

Cuningham Group is the project's landscape architect.The studio is led by David Motzenbecker, who was president of the City of Minneapolis Planning Commission, resigning in Jan. 2013. These experiences, Duval said, will help bridge policy and design.

“The Nicollet Gateway public realm is designed for health, beauty, recreation, and functional value," David Motzenbecker said. "Our team has designed a beautiful place that will support a diverse range of community activities year round in an environmentally sustainable manner.”


Of course, many super-tall buildings with a deep line-up of players never get built, and questions still linger about occupancy and financing of the project. But Duval said he will release that information when it is appropriate and in a way that does not undermine the integrity of the competition.

The other three well-established developers bidding on the project are Mortenson, Doran Development and United Properties -- all Twin Cities-based companies.

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