A construction crew is renovating part of the century-old Young Quinlan building on Nicollet Mall, a portion of which has been vacant since JB Hudson Jewelers was acquired and left it early this year.

A group led by the Downtown Council, which is also housed in the building, asked Alliiance, the Minneapolis architecture firm that really is spelled with two i's, to redesign the space into the home of Chameleon Shoppes.

The Chameleon project began in 2018 to give women and minority retail entrepreneurs access to appealing locations in downtown Minneapolis. Alliiance agreed to redesign the former JB Hudson space in Young Quinlan at no cost.

"It's a way for Alliiance to support minority-owned businesses and make a positive contribution to downtown and the city," Alliiance President Eric Peterson said. "We are excited about helping to reanimate that critical building and corner.''

The Downtown Council, 314 Group, Gardner Construction and Target Corp. also contributed to the effort.

Alliiance architect Ernesto Ruiz-Garcia created an open, light-filled space for the boutiques. The former JB Hudson space is being largely returned to its historic state. There will also be a flexible workspace and conference area for the entrepreneurs to use for office work.

Alliiance is ranked eighth-largest among architecture firms in the Twin Cities, according to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. The firm has nearly doubled employment to 110 and increased revenue 190% to $31 million over the last decade.

Alliiance has been based in a Loring Park mansion since 1970. An addition was built in 1992.

Alliiance, with 21 partners, is a low-profile, consensus-oriented shop. Peterson, who is 55 and an Alliiance architect since 1989, said he rarely has cast a deciding vote in eight years as boss.

About 70% of Alliiance work in recent years has been designing airport renovations from International Falls to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, in the Pacific. It's biggest job ever is the current redevelopment of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Alliiance designed the $440 million overhaul of the main terminal, increased the footprint of the ticketing-and-baggage levels by about 10% but "reduced congestion and increased capacity by up to three times in walkways, lounges, ticketing and baggage areas," according to owner Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC).

Water and energy use were cut by as much as two-thirds. High-efficiency HVAC technology and electrochromic glass increased natural lighting and cut heat loss markedly. More efficient design and technology has meant more comfort and capacity at MSP.

In one creative sustainable touch, recycled porcelain toilets were crushed and used as aggregate in the new terrazzo flooring.

"The improvements will extend the terminal's useful life by another 50-plus years while offering travelers and visitors a 'new' airport experience once the project is completed in 2024," MAC spokesman Jeff Lea said.

Researcher J.D. Power recognized MSP this year as winner of its annual survey of passengers among large U.S. airports. Power said MSP has trended upward for several years, improving comfort, utility and a local identity that he couldn't find elsewhere.

This redevelopment of the airport has roots in the Minnesota Legislature's wise decision in the late 1990s to expand MSP rather than build a new airport on University of Minnesota land 20 miles south.

Alliiance principal Jeff Loeschen heads a team of 10 employees stationed at the airport, with up to 30 others working on MAC duties.

Small also can be beautiful.

Alliiance recently designed the $5.5 million redevelopment and expansion on 38th Street on Minneapolis' South Side of the 27-year-old Center for Performing Arts, an expanding business in a century-old former convent of Incarnation Catholic Church.

Executive Director Jackie Hayes, a bootstrapped entrepreneur, raised her two children in the former nun's residence as she built the business. The four-story, 21,000-square-foot addition, is linked by skyway to the original building.

The new building replaced a parking lot. But green space and trees that shade the small campus weren't sacrificed. The complex now boasts a new public entry and two 100-seat performance venues. Three stories of tenant space and collaborative environments are arranged above. Large, openable windows add natural light and air to the building.

Hayes praised the work of architects Amber Sausen and Marcelo Pinto for creating something that is "more than the sum of its parts" of 36,000 square feet. The two buildings function as one larger, flexible space, she said. And the tenants and attendees are growing.

"Everyone shared a vision and goal knowing the large, positive impact this project would have on the neighborhood and the Twin Cities," Hayes said. "We are committed to small business and 38th Street."