More than just a new coat of paint

The 22-story office tower at 100 Washington Av. S. is the latest downtown Minneapolis high-rise to receive significant cosmetic upgrades as property owners compete for businesses looking for fresh, hip office space.

Owner Shorenstein Properties is moving forward with its plans to overhaul the outdoor plaza that serves as a connection between 100 Washington and two other buildings — 20 and 111 Washington — all part of the Washington Square complex. Shorenstein will also renovate the lobby entrance and several of the interior amenity areas.

"We are doing a lot to make it warmer, greener, more inviting, because it's currently a very cold plaza. The planters don't do much for it," said Ronnie Ragoff, senior vice president of asset management for Shorenstein.

A Zen garden, pergola, bocce ball court and outdoor seating will be added to the plaza. There will be two other gardens, including a rock garden using slate, that will emulate the landscaping outside the Minneapolis Central Library.

The company is installing new LED lighting in the lobby and has ordered 40-foot glass sheets to create an open, light-filled lobby entrance.

The San Francisco-based real estate investment company purchased the properties in downtown's Gateway District last August, knowing the 1980s-era office complex needed a refresh. It has hired Minneapolis-based interior design firm Shea Inc. and the Telos Group, a Chicago-based real estate marketing and consulting firm, to design a new strategy for the property.

"We are really making a big push to make it more of a tech building, more of a creative space," said Ragoff, based in New York. "We think this is an up-and-coming market."

The company recently completed the fitness center and is now working on the cafeteria and lounge areas. It is also finishing a major waterproofing effort on the entire structure to repair considerable leaks in the parking garage.

When Shorenstein bought the property, it was about 72 percent occupied. Two recent lease signings will bring the occupancy up to 85 percent. JAMF Software, currently located in the Grain Exchange, signed a lease for 52,000 square feet, and advertising agency Little will be taking over 16,000 square feet. Ragoff said both are expected to move into the building by the end of the year.

"We are really focused on creating a more forward-thinking workplace for progressive companies looking to attract top talent," said Erin Wendorf, vice president of Transwestern Minneapolis, and the property's leasing agent.

Despite the heavy concentration of construction cranes moving into the north end of the central business district, Wendorf said there is still a perception by prospective tenants that Washington Square and the Gateway District are dead zones of activity.

"We have had to drag people down there to help them see that it is really the "T" that connects the North Loop, the CBD and Downtown East," Wendorf said. "In 24 months, this is going to be a dramatically changed district."

As for the other structures in the complex, Shorenstein had looked at selling the 15-story tower at 111 Washington to a hotel operator. A new plan has emerged. Wendorf said, "Now with the leasing success we are seeing at 100, we are looking at renovating that building to the same level."

Kristen Leigh Painter