Remnants of the old neighborhood are sprinkled in the newest office buildings in downtown Minneapolis.
Wells Fargo & Co. formally opened its East Town towers, the two 17-story buildings built near the new U.S. Bank Stadium. In an outdoor ceremony in smoldering heat Wednesday, executives and state and local government officials lauded the $300 million project, where 5,000 people now work on what used to be two parking lots.
“It’s not often when a company like ours has the opportunity to transform a neighborhood,” said Pat Ryan, chief executive of developer Ryan Cos. He added, “We are moving the center of Minneapolis eastward.”
Ryan led the five-block redevelopment project near the stadium on land that was formerly owned by Star Tribune Media Co. On Thursday, the firm and city officials will celebrate the opening of the 4.2-acre Commons park, built on two other former Star Tribune blocks.
John Stumpf, Wells Fargo chairman and chief executive who grew up in Minnesota, said the project represents the company’s commitment to the Twin Cities, from which it operates the state's largest bank and sizable home mortgage operations. With a replica of the red stagecoach that the company uses in its marketing near the entrance of one of the towers, Stumpf said if the Minnesota Vikings, the principal tenant of the nearby stadium, win a Super Bowl, he would paint the wagon purple for a victory parade.
The two Wells Fargo towers, with a combined 1.1 million square feet of space, represent the largest single-office project in downtown Minneapolis since Capella Tower in 1992.
“I don’t think any of us could have imagined,” Stumpf said, referring to how the project turned out.
The two office buildings at 550 and 600 S. Fourth St. also feature six limestone medallions that previously adorned the Star Tribune building, which was demolished last year.
The circles depict the six industries that were most important to Minnesota in the middle of the 20th century — agriculture, dairy, lumber, milling, mining and tourism. The medallions’ significance was memorialized on an outdoor plaque.
“It speaks so well … that they have acknowledged our collective history,” said Mike Klingensmith, publisher and CEO of the Star Tribune, at the event.
The history references didn’t stop at the stone carvings. Large black-and-white photos cover the walls on the skyway level of both buildings showing mostly aerial views of downtown from the 1860s to most recently. Front pages of the earlier versions of the Star Tribune were also featured.
“It was a really cool homage,” said Tony Barranco, Ryan’s vice president of development.