City reveals new details of consolidated office project

The city's consolidated office building is planned for a space kitty-corner from City Hall. Submitted image

The City of Minneapolis is planning to relocate more than 1,000 employees to a new office building planned for a site kitty-corner from City Hall, and in April it revealed more detailed plans for the project.

The 10-story, skyway-connected building designed by Henning Larsen of Denmark and Minneapolis-based MSR is one piece in a $210 million plan that also includes renovations to City Hall. The consolidated office building is scheduled to open in fall 2020; demolition of the parking ramp that it will replace could begin as soon as June.

In addition to City Hall, the city currently owns or leases office space in seven downtown buildings, including the First Precinct at 4th & Hennepin. When completed, the consolidated office building will bring eight city departments under one roof.

“This today, to me, represents a vision and an opportunity,” City Coordinator Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde said during an April 11 briefing on the project.

Having city employees “scattered throughout the city” is not just inefficient, she said, it makes it more difficult to collaborate between departments. Both the City of Lakes Building and the Public Service Center are aging, and relocating employees currently housed in both creates an opportunity to rethink how city services are delivered to the community, she added.

Rivera-Vandermyde described the consolidated office building as the “manifestation” of the answer to a question posed during the design process: “How does the city come to community in a much different way?”

A rendering of the first-floor lobby of the consolidated office building. Many services will be delivered on the skyway level. Submitted image
A rendering of the first-floor lobby of the consolidated office building. Many services will be delivered on the skyway level. Submitted image

The boxy, modern structure is covered in bird-safe frittered glass. Cutouts in the façade open to interior spaces designed for collaboration.

The building will include three skyway connections and a skyway-level public service area — the public’s first stop for everything from business licensing to paying utility bills. Architect Michael Sorenson of Henning Larsen said the nearly transparent first floor was designed as “a very open gesture” to the Hennepin County Government Center plaza across 4th Avenue.

The 382,000-square-foot building was designed to accommodate 1,300-plus employees in offices spread across floors three through nine. The 10th floor is a common area for staff. The building also includes one underground level with space for bike storage.

The Minneapolis Police Department’s investigative unit will occupy about one-third of the building when it opens.

Of the $210 million estimated budget for the project, at least three-quarters is expected to go toward construction of the new office building, with the rest reserved for renovations at City Hall, said Mark Ruff, the city’s chief financial officer. Ruff declined to give a more specific breakdown because the numbers could change, he said.

Ruff said the project got rolling way back in 1999, when the City Council instructed staff to stop investing in the city-owned office buildings near City Hall. That decision didn’t anticipate a major recession and a later council’s vote to strike a $20 million deal with the Park Board for park and streets improvements, two factors that pushed back a groundbreaking date.

“2016 is when the council took up the project in earnest again,” he said.

The City of Lakes Building and Public Service Center — located on the block bounded by 3rd and 4th streets and 2nd and 3rd avenues — have now gone 20 years without an upgrade to the buildings’ heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, Ruff said.

The city plans to sell those buildings and use the proceeds to pay for the new consolidated office building and City Hall renovations. Asked how much the city thinks it will get for the properties, Ruff noted the city had a pending deal to sell the Nicollet Hotel Block to United Properties for $10.4 million. The City of Lakes Building and Public Service Center sale would be for about three-quarters of a block, not a full block, in a less desirable location, he said, estimating the city could get $5 million–$6 million for the properties.

New tax revenue generated by the redevelopment of the site is expected to offset a portion of project costs. The city is also counting on the savings it gets from ending payments on the leased downtown office space it will no longer require and avoiding the expense of maintenance and renovations to those buildings.

Ruff said the city expects to have paid down debts from other projects by 2022. It will also issue bonds for the consolidated office building and City Hall renovations.

Ruff said there would be no increase in property taxes due to the project.

The project budget includes $2 million (about 1.5 percent of the total cost) for public artworks in the new consolidated office building, Mary Altman, the city’s public arts administrator. Tristan Al-Haddad of Atlanta’s Formation Studio was selected to identify art opportunities and select artists to contribute to the project. Al-Haddad will also design one signature artwork for the new building.