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Westin Hotel

Minneapolis, Minnesota

September 01, 2007 |

Mid-twentieth-century projects are in a state of limbo. In many cities, safeguards against quick demolition don't even cover “new” buildings built after 1939, yet many such buildings may be obsolete by current standards. The Farmers and Mechanics Savings Bank, located in downtown Minneapolis, was one such building, a rare example of architecture from a time when American design was big, strong, and proud, but because of the Depression, actual building was rare.

The 1942 McEnary and Krafft-designed banking hall, on the National Register of Historic Places, was notable for its classic Streamline Moderne design touches. Its tower addition, which opened in 1963, featured sleek, International Style lines reminiscent of New York's Rockefeller Center and accented with bas-relief carvings on the limestone exterior and stylized owls in the glass blocks above the main entry.

But by 2005, the F&M Savings building sat empty on one of Minneapolis's busiest thoroughfares. Luckily, F&M Savings caught the eye of Ryan Cos., which was just completing the rehabilitation of the Minneapolis Sears building into the Midtown Exchange (see BD+C October 2006, p. 42). The grand lobby, with its tiered ceiling, marble floors, and wood paneling, encouraged the Ryan firm to have local architects Elness Swenson Graham review the feasibility of transforming the bank into a Westin hotel. After the project was endorsed by Westin owner Starwood Properties, Ryan Cos. purchased the building and managed its modernization and restoration.

Converting the interior of the building to a 214-room, four-star hotel while simultaneously restoring the building's exterior to its original design aesthetic was no small task for Ryan Cos., which served as both design-build GC and developer. The Building Team also had to meet certain standards to keep the building on the U.S. Secretary of Interior's Historic Registry.

“This is an unusual project and a tough conversion because hotels are so formulaic—certain room sizes, bathroom locations,” said Reconstruction Awards honorary chair Walker Johnson, FAIA, principal with Lasky Architects, Chicago. “This type of building is much easier to do new.”

Gray paint that had been slathered over the 1963 tower addition was carefully removed from the curtain wall, resurrecting its original blue-green hue. New custom-made double-glazed windows and interior insulation of the curtain wall have made the tower energy efficient while retaining its original appearance. An entirely new plumbing infrastructure was installed to serve the 214 hotel rooms.

The guest rooms, located in the tower, include 19 suites to meet Starwood's requirements for the Westin brand.

“It's nice to see a building from this time period that people thought was worth saving,” said awards panelist Carrie Warner, senior project engineer at Halvorson & Partners, Chicago.

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