Behind the Bob Dylan mural in Minneapolis
By: Karlee Weinmann
The times, they are a-changin’ for the 15 Building in downtown Minneapolis.
A permanent Bob Dylan mural catching eyes on the side of the 180,000-square-foot property, at 15 S. Fifth St. near Hennepin Avenue, complements a multimillion-dollar interior renovation. The effort so far has drawn a handful of new tenants enticed by a more open, modern feel.
Chicago-based R2 and AIMS Real Estate, a Goldman Sachs Asset Management unit, bought the 15 Building a little more than a year ago. They planned a multimillion-dollar renovation for the nearly century-old building, which on a suite-by-suite basis will strip back to exposed brick and concrete and open up layouts to invite natural light.
They’re out to create the kind of space — inside and out — that draws sought-after creative tenants, like marketing firms and ad agencies. Increasingly, mainstream companies are looking for the same thing, R2 Managing Principal Matt Garrison said.
“It’s basically to create an environment where employees want to be, which will give companies a competitive advantage in recruiting employees,” he said. “What happens inside the building is important and what happens outside the building — with the neighborhood and vibrancy — is important.”
R2 and AIMS recruited Eduardo Kobra, a Brazilian street artist known around the globe, to cover up the blank east-facing wall with something that fit better with their vision for the art deco building. Kobra and his team started the 60-foot-high and 150-foot-wide project last week and expect to finish on Tuesday.
Combined with the interior upgrades, Garrison expects the art to make the 15 Building, built in 1916, prime downtown real estate.
On the outskirts of the skyway system, the property has easy access to the North Loop — one of the fastest-rising real estate markets in the nation, especially among creative-type tenants that generally fill loft-type office spaces like the ones sprouting up in the 15 Building revamp.
The building was about half vacant when R2 and AIMS bought it. Since then, a handful of new leases increased occupancy to around 65 percent, Garrison said. Current tenants include media company Channel Z, ad firm Hunt Adkins, employee benefits startup Bloom Health and co-working space provider Assemble Shared Office.
In addition, Garrison said several retailers are in talks to take over about 10,000 square feet of ground-level space, formerly home to a bar.
The mural spotlights Dylan, the Minnesota-born singing legend, but it also showcases an opening for property owners and other downtown stakeholders to raise their profile — which can pay off in a big way, said Joan Vorderbruggen, who is helping manage the project as the arts coordinator for the Hennepin Theatre Trust‘s cultural district.
Works like the mural draw people to downtown and keep visitors engaged with the space — as well as the businesses nearby, she said.
“The broad appeal has been really exciting,” she said. “I just hope we can continue to do other projects like this here and that other stakeholders are going to say, ‘This was amazing for the city. Let’s keep doing it.’”
Garrison said more privately financed efforts like the Dylan project would go a long way toward bolstering the arts and culture cachet of downtown, a potential boon for all property owners.
“It’s not about us, it’s about the neighborhood,” Garrison said. “We hope other people come renovate buildings and do the same thing we’re doing. It’s not competition, it actually creates community and scale, and it helps everyone.”
Additional photos by Staff Photographer Bill Klotz of the Bob Dylan mural in progress: