The Dayton’s Project

Gensler worked to maintain the architecture and charm of a historic Minneapolis building while integrating creative modern elements for The Dayton’s Project.

  • area / size 1,200,000 sqft
  • Year 2020
  • The Dayton’s building has been a central piece of Minnesota’s history and culture for generations. For more than 100 years, the landmark building was home to the famous Dayton’s department store and was an anchor for the central business district. More than just a property, Dayton’s is also a powerful brand—a place filled with the remembrances of many Minnesotans and a central destination in the city with five skyway connections and proximity to Nicollet Mall. The reposition authentically blends past with future, creates new spatial uses, and revives the building’s essence of being a memory maker and cultural nexus.

    Standing at 12 stories with over 1.2 million square feet, Gensler transformed the single-function, inwardly-focused building into an accessible and dynamic multi-functional mixed-use hub. The restored and reimagined building – dubbed The Dayton’s Project – now features exceptional modern office, dining, and retail spaces that draw in visitors from Nicollet Mall and the city’s famed skyway. Tenant-exclusive amenities include private lounge and library spaces, a state-of-the-art gym facility, and a green rooftop terrace with unparalleled skyline views, which also doubles as an event space.

    A primary design objective was to bring a sense of wonder, curiosity, and discovery to a place that has been familiar and familial for generations. Working collaboratively, The Dayton’s Project design and development teams revitalized and reimagined this iconic property, while celebrating and honoring the memories and expectation of countless Minnesotans who hold the old Dayton’s department store dear in their hearts. Many original features have been retained and restored, including the Art Deco bathrooms, JB Hudson space, ornate column capitals, and terrazzo and stone flooring.

    The interior public spaces take cues from the period of construction—with patterns, furnishings, and colors all reflective of a modern interpretation of Art Deco design. Light fixture patterns reference hexagon shapes of the period, and a custom inlay brass “D” at all entrances is a nod to the former department store, harkening back to the way Dayton’s shoppers used the inlays to orient themselves throughout the store.

    Making the building open and transparent to both street level and skyway level traffic was imperative. Walls and window displays from the former department store were removed from the interior perimeter, exposing the windows and allowing ample natural daylight to penetrate the space. Large new openings linked by a grand interconnecting stair stitch together what once were isolated floors and unite the street level to the skyway, making it accessible no matter where people enter the building. A striking sculptural light fixture made of 12 layers of high-efficient LED lighting that, when viewed at just the right spot, materialize into the familiar Dayton’s “D”, suspended two stories above the viewing point. The fixture fills the space with light while providing a wow factor at the entry and focal point for the grand stair.

    To formally recognize this architectural and historical gem, the development team worked closely with state and federal policy makers to secure the building’s rightful listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Design: Gensler
    Design Team: Grant Uhlir, Aleksandar Sasha Zeljic, Bill Baxley, Steve Bieringer, Michael Townsend, John Huebsch, Shannon Crenshaw, Reid Ziolkowski, Jeff Walz, Brenda Wentworth, Benjy Ward, Rohaja Saaba, Julie Koerber, Dace Russell, Paola Oliveras, Peter Leoschke, Mark Spencer, Juan Acosta
    Photography: Tom Harris