The old Dayton’s in downtown Minneapolis will soon be updated with open mezzanines, sweeping high ceilings, shops and offices. And some of its quirks, like the bathroom with turquoise sinks on the fourth floor, will still be there.
Balancing modern design with the history of Minnesota’s grandest department store is a key challenge for the developers who this year bought the three-building complex on Nicollet Mall that for a century was the headquarters and flagship store of Dayton’s and was most recently occupied by Macy’s.
The new owners, 601W Cos. of New York, and their local development partners are hoping to revive the Dayton’s name and logo as they aim to make the building once again the center of retailing in downtown Minneapolis by 2019.
The lower levels of what they are now calling “the Dayton’s Project” will be filled with stores, restaurants and a food hall with a mix of trendy vendors and dining options. The upper floors will be office space with a health club and large outdoor terrace.
“What we are looking for is to be a destination,” said Brian Whiting, president of the Telos Group, a minority owner in the project.
If the retail portion of the building succeeds, it would be a much-needed boost for Nicollet Mall, which lost stores during a $50 million makeover that began in July 2015 and is nearing completion.
A rendering of one of the spaces in the revamped Macy's/Dayton's building in downtown Minneapolis. Plans call for a mix of retail, restaurants and a high-energy food hall as well as Modern office spaces with assorted meeting areas.
The building joins a growing list of old department stores that are getting new lives. In St. Paul, tenants have already started to move into the former Macy’s building that’s been turned into offices, shops and the practice home of the Minnesota Wild. In St. Louis and Pittsburgh, developers are turning downtown sites last occupied by Macy’s into apartments, offices and shops.
The downtown Minneapolis property is actually three buildings that add up to about 1.3 million square feet, about the size of 10 Target stores.
Though not the height of a skyscraper, the buildings have the space of one. Work crews are already tearing out walls and fixtures that remained from Macy’s, which owned the building for the past decade and sold it to 601W for $59 million in March.
The new owner and its partners will spend tens of millions more to update the buildings, the oldest of which dates to 1902. Some early renderings of their ideas leaked on the internet this month, but they provided the Star Tribune with updated versions for this article. On Monday, they plan to formally share the plans with the public.
Also last week, they invited interested parties to walk through the buildings. Among them: Gov. Mark Dayton and his sons Eric and Andrew, descendants of the founder of the Dayton’s chain.
“Fun to see the Dayton’s name carry on in the building,” Andrew Dayton said.
Eric Dayton, who has been campaigning for downtown property owners and workers to return to the streets from the skyways, said he was impressed by the developers’ ideas for opening up the building to Nicollet Mall.