Is There a Future in Store for the Former Downtown Macy's Location?

Minneapolis Downtown Retail Space Opportunity It's official. The Nicollet Mall Macy's will close in March. The building has been sold and, although a firm closing date has not yet been set, a liquidation sale is slated to begin Monday, January 9.

Macy's representatives confirmed the news in a meeting with members of the Minneapolis city council on January 5, and also notified state authorities that "up to 379 people could be idled sometime between March 6 and March 19," according to news reports in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The two restaurants on the 12th floor, The Oak Grill and the Skyroom, will close January 27.

The buyer, New York-based 601W Cos., reportedly will transform the space into modern offices that could conceivably employ as many as 2,000 people. There is also speculation that some sort of retail presence will remain on the ground floor, and perhaps at skywalk level. The building that opened in 1901 as Dayton's Department Store, and then grew to include two other buildings, will now become something else.

What Happened?

Although there had been rumblings about the potential pullout of the Macy's brand, it was uncertain until now. This was one of those "expected surprises," according to some observers. In recent years, the retailer had repeatedly downsized and is currently occupying only about half  the available space in the three connected buildings. In 2013, though, the Oak Grill was completely renovated, and, as recently as 2015, the company reiterated its intention to keep "flagship stores," including this one, open.

During the last quarter of 2016, Macy's announced that its men's flagship in San Francisco would be sold; and also disclosed that the downtown Portland, Oregon, store was under contract.

Last week, Macy's announced locations of 68 of the 100 stores it plans to shutter this year in a belt-tightening move brought on by disappointing sales and declining profits. At present, there are 730 stores. Macy's is not the only nationwide retailer to announce upcoming closures. High-end retailers attribute the "hard times" to the growth of online sales and public infatuation with lower prices offered by discount stores.

While the mass closure is a major cost-cutting move, large retail stores in downtown locations have been disappearing for decades as populations shift to the suburbs. That the downtown Minneapolis store survived so long may be testament to the strength of the brand as well as the relative health of the Nicollet location.

What's Next?

The new owner of the Minneapolis property has a history of successful historic building renovation and redevelopment. No announcements have been made, however, and it is too early to speculate on the shape of things to come. What is certain is that there is a lot of space available, approximately one million square feet, and a lot of potential. 

When the downtown St. Paul Macy's store was closed in 2013, that city faced a similar dilemma. The property is now owned by the Port Authority, and there is finally some indication that a workable plan has been devised to "recycle" the massive, windowless block structure, built in 1960, into something modern, usable and attractive. It appears now that much of it will become additional parking. It's been a long time coming.

We hope that determining a direction for the Nicollet buildings does not take as long, and that a new life for them will preserve their history and character. We'll be watching for new developments.


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