Though packed, it was quiet inside the elevator cab Friday as the exterior cage shuttled special guests to the 36th floor of the nearly finished RBC Gateway Tower in downtown Minneapolis.
The cage ascended, clinging to the outside of the burgeoning structure to reveal astonishing views of the Mississippi River, the Twins ballpark, the Carlson Towers in Minnetonka and miles of trees.
"Wow. It's beautiful," said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey peeking through elevator slats to see his city and so much more.
Frey, United Properties President Bill Katter, Senior Vice President Rick McKelvey and Pohlad Cos. executive Bob Pohlad spilled from the skip elevator to explore the newly installed and final 36th and 37th floors of what is now city's ninth tallest building.
Come spring, the RBC Gateway Tower, at the corner of Nicollet Mall and Washington Avenue, will house the city's first five-star Four Seasons Hotel and 34 private residences, 16 floors of offices, underground parking, plus an array of lavish ballrooms, bars, skyways, pools and terraces.
The building is 95% pre-leased and several of the condos have been sold, officials said, despite a pandemic that stymied many other office, retail and entertainment projects for more than a year.
RBC Wealth Management will be the main office tenant. The Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) real estate group and the investment firm Castlelake recently signed leases.
Other tenants include United Properties, which developed the tower and is the development arm of the Pohlad family. Three other Pohlad businesses will also be headquartered there including the Carousel Motor Group, the Pohlad Family Foundation, and the Pohlad Investment Group.
RBC's success comes amid a glut of office space available downtown. The newly renovated Dayton's Project office complex, which also sits on Nicollet Mall, remains mostly vacant, with Ernst & Young its only announced tenant.
Second-quarter data released by Cushman & Wakefield report that downtown Minneapolis offices remain 24% vacant.
The $433 million RBC building began on paper seven years ago when Frey, then a City Council member, was "warring" against the city's underused surface parking lots and searching for development proposals.
"This was the sexiest remaining parcel in the city that had yet to be developed," Frey said, adding that the parking lot land sale has since helped fund other housing initiatives across the city. "The building is a reminder that even in the toughest of times, we can build extraordinary things."
Construction started in 2019. A year ago, it was only 16 stories tall.
Hundreds of construction workers on Friday continued welding, grinding and pounding, determined to get the inside of the building in shape by spring.
Only about 20,000 square feet of office space remain to be leased, said United Properties spokeswoman Maria Jamero.
McKelvey, who oversaw the project for seven years, showed guests the second floor skyway connections to the Minneapolis Library, the future Four Seasons ballroom on the second floor and the fourth-floor outdoor bar and grill, which is expected to open to the public June 1.
"It will be the place to be," McKelvey said, with a snowmelt system that'll keep it open year-round.
On the sundrenched roof last week, Pohlad, Frey, McKelvey, Katter and several other guests watched two McGough Construction workers use a towering yellow crane to hoist and bolt the final construction beam into place on an overhead platform. The workers unfurled a giant U.S. flag as the rooftop crowd attending the "Top Off" ceremony applauded.
When done, the 1.2 million-square-foot structure "will bring a whole new downtown energy," said Pohlad while watching the final beam get installed.
"I've been here two years, when it was just a hole in the earth," McGough Construction general foreman Brett Miller said. "This is pretty cool to be part of this."
The final steel beam, signed by many of the guests at the event, will be lit year round, Katter told Pohlad while pointing to where color-changing lights will surround the platform at the pinnacle of the tower.
"The light will be prominent," Katter said. "I spent many a dark morning driving in, imagining what it will look like. Now it's here."