More than any other historic renovation Brian Whiting has been part of, the redevelopment of the former Dayton’s department store in Minneapolis will likely face the most scrutiny and pressure.

“So many people had memories here. … It’s a challenge and it’s a potential benefit too,” said Whiting, president of the Chicago-based Telos Group, a minority owner in the project.

The conversion of the old downtown store into modern offices and stores will cost at least $250 million, developers announced Monday. That includes the $59 million purchase price that new owners 601W Cos. of New York paid earlier this year for the three-building complex.

The plan is for the more than 1 million square feet of space to be transformed with stores, restaurants and a lively food hall to occupy the first two floors and lower level and new offices for an estimated 4,000 workers to take up the rest of the 12 floors.

The redevelopment is being called “the Dayton’s project.” According to records from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, 601W Cos. filed an application for the Dayton’s trademark last month. Already developers have begun using the Dayton’s name in their marketing, including a website and large posters on the skyway level of the building.

The store, which in recent years had operated as a Macy’s, has been shuttered since March. Many Minnesotans remember the store from its previous life as the flagship Dayton’s department store which brought thousands to shop along Nicollet Mall.

“I just really couldn’t think of a better scenario for Minneapolis,” said Steve Cramer, president and chief executive of the Minneapolis Downtown Council.

Cramer, who spoke during a news conference Monday announcing the Dayton’s project, said the tie between the store’s redevelopment and the multimillion makeover of Nicollet Mall “couldn’t be stronger or more timely.”

“To me, this one-two punch is going to be tremendous for our downtown and send the signal that we are open for other retail and entertainment business along Nicollet,” he said.

Redevelopment is a daunting task for a complex that has old mechanical systems and asbestos alongside local treasures such as the old Oak Grill restaurant on the top floor and the elaborate JB Hudson jewelry store on the first floor.

Developers said they are working with local and federal historic preservation officials to determine what features of the old department store to save and the best way to preserve them.

Workers are taking apart each floor starting with the fifth. The age of the complex — the oldest of the buildings dates back to 1902 — means there could be construction challenges hidden behind the walls. “As we are starting to open up the layers upon layers that have been cast on this building as a department store over the years, we’ll find challenges,” Whiting said.

No office or retail tenants have been signed, but he said there has been a lot of interest. The complex would mostly be complete in 2019, but it’s possible that some office tenants could move into the space as early as next year.

At about $190 million in teardown and construction costs, the makeover of the Dayton’s complex will become one of the most expensive projects in the Twin Cities at the moment. The new hotel built this year at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport had a budget of $115 million, the makeover of the main terminal $200 million and a new airport parking ramp $240 million.

“It’s really easy to spend money on a project like this,” Whiting said. “I always say it would be easier to just tear it down and start again, but then you would lose all that history and culture and nostalgia that is what’s attracting people.”


Twitter: @nicolenorfleet