Updated Architecture with a Past

Oct. 1, 2007
Modernization Citation of Excellence: 903 Washington Avenue/Stonebridge Bank, Minneapolis, MN

Originally constructed in 1901 as a radiator factory with a horse stable, the building at 903 Washington Avenue in Minneapolis had quite a history before Frich Development purchased the facility in 2005. While modest interior renovations over the years had converted the building to a functioning office property, it - like the neighborhood in which it was located - was filled with potential. A revitalization was happening to this area of downtown Minneapolis, and 903 Washington Avenue was about to become a part of it.

All three of the building's floors would be renovated. The former horse stable on the lower (street) level would house a bar/restaurant in front and service areas for the building (restrooms, storage, and equipment) in the rear. The main level would house the building lobby off of the parking lot, the restaurant in the front, and office/retail in the rear; the previously unoccupied attic space on the third floor would be opened up to create a loft space for Stonebridge Bank. A delicate balance between respecting the original building's character and enhancing its functionality was achieved.

Stonebridge Bank, the building's first tenant, needed convenient access for existing clients as well as maximum visibility to attract new clients. A conference room was also on the list of requirements. In order to create an unobstructed space, significant modification to the timber roof trusses was required and a new roof was installed. A three-level addition was constructed to accommodate a conference room for the bank on the third floor. (The addition housed building service space in the basement and restaurant ventilation equipment on the main level.) The architect for the building's shell carefully designed the addition to integrate with the existing aesthetics of the 1901 building.

To provide the bank's clients with convenient access, a 24-hour ATM lobby was created adjacent to the bank's reserved customer parking area. A new three-stop hydraulic elevator was also added to the building's lobby, providing customers with quick access to the bank's lobby on the third story. Visibility was enhanced through the use of creative signage and a large expanse of interior glass that overlooks the restaurant directly below the bank's loft space.

Among the many construction challenges was reconciling the aesthetic disparity of the need for a professional, secure, and technology-filled environment for Stonebridge Bank while respecting the unique historic envelope of the original building. An appropriate blend of contemporary and handcrafted timber finishes and furnishings form an eclectic décor that works for both the bank and the building.

Judges' Comments

"The balance between func­­­tionality, buildabilty, and cost has been well documented in this project. The long-term operational costs that find their way into long-term lease agreements have been carefully balanced. Initial expenditures in build-out costs were higher than normal; however, the long-term energy savings reduce operational costs. In the end ... all parties win."

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