Nov 15, 2021 - Business
Sneak peek: Revamped Dayton's Project opens Thursday
The seventh-floor lounge and the first-floor light fixture, as seen from the basement. Photos: Audrey Kennedy/Axios Twin Cities

The $350 million revamp of the former Dayton's department store debuting in downtown Minneapolis this week combines a sleek new look with nods to the iconic building's storied past.

Driving the news: The much-anticipated Dayton's Project reopens to the public Thursday after a yearslong redevelopment.

  • Gensler, the architecture and design firm behind the renovation, gave Axios a behind-the-scenes tour on Friday.

What's new: The street-level space that once housed the store's cosmetics and jewelry sections has been transformed into a "maker's marketplace" with over 30 vendors.

  • There's more natural light and updated elements, including an LED installation that looks like the Dayton's "D," if you stand in just the right spot.
  • Plus: The seventh floor features a swanky lounge and outdoor patio — complete with cozy chairs, fireplaces, and a full bar — for future tenants of the upstairs office space.

What's not: The bones and many original features of the historic landmark, including some flooring, light fixtures and vintage design elements.

  • Part of that maker's market, for example, is housed in the former JB Hudson Jewelers space. Wrought iron doors and the wooden built-ins from the original store remain.

What they're saying: "The goal was to make it be familiar to the city," design manager Steve Bieringer told Axios.

  • "Everybody has a story around this building. [They] either worked here, knew someone who worked here, shopped here, did all the experiences upstairs for the holidays ... so that was really important," Bieringer said.

The big picture: The opening is a major milestone for the highly-anticipated project, which has seen more than its fair share of hurdles since New York developer 601W Cos. bought the building at 700 Nicollet Ave. in 2017. 

Yes, but: It's only 10% leased so far and the developers had to secure a $250 million financing package in order to stave off an attempt by another lender to take control of the building. 

  • Finding tenants could be complicated by the fact that the office vacancy rate is still 27% in the central business district, according to a recent Cushman & Wakefield report. 

What's next: A basement-level food court is set to debut at a yet-to-be-announced date.

  • Final design and completion of the upper office floors — including how to incorporate historic features that must be preserved — will happen once tenants sign on.

The bottom line: After almost five years, people who work, live and visit downtown Minneapolis can finally enjoy the Dayton's building again.

  • But realization of the project's full vision remains a ways off.
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