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In downtown Minneapolis, historic Young-Quinlan building looks to evolve retail space

With the majority of the building’s office space occupied, the property’s owners mull ideas for first floor retail.
Exterior of the Young-Quinlan building in downtown Minneapolis.
Exterior of the Young-Quinlan building in downtown Minneapolis.
Photo by Dan Niepow

Nestled into a sea of downtown high rises, the Young-Quinlan Building’s brick facade at the corner of Nicollet Mall and South 9th Street sticks out to passersby. Many remember the historic space as a boon for retail. Now it primarily houses office tenants. But as the downtown market shifts, the building’s owners say local charm and amenities will drive the evolution of the historic property.

JB Hudson, a fixture on Nicollet Mall for 136 years, closed its location in the Young-Quinlan building in 2021. The jeweler has since reopened in the Galleria mall in Edina. After JB Hudson left, building owners Bob and Sue Greenberg decided to renovate the space and return it to what it looked like back when it was still the Young-Quinlan department store in 1926. 614 Company — the Greenbergs’ property management company — took control of and fully renovated the building in 1985, converting it into a multi-use space.

“We continue to survive seemingly in the land of the giants and a lot of national shift. We just keep plugging along,” Bob Greenberg told TCB.

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The Young-Quinlan Building has leaned into its local identity as it has undergone an evolution in both its first floor and mezzanine and its office leasing management, Greenberg said. The 614 Company recently appointed local commercial real estate leasing company Kenwood Commercial as the leasing agent for office space. CBRE Group Inc. previously had been charged with leasing the property.

Unlike many downtown buildings, the majority of the 168,000-square-foot building’s office space is occupied, said Nils Snyder with Kenwood Commercial. There were only three vacancies in the space when Kenwood took over. The mixed-use nature of the building allows for various sizes of spaces to be leased, he noted. This has been helpful as businesses look for smaller office footprints.

“We’re seeing a lot of activity in that 1,000 to 10,000, square foot space,” Snyder said.

Leasing of the first-floor former JB Hudson space has been coordinated through the Chameleon Consortium’s Chameleon Shoppes program. Last year, the program held a small business pop-up market. While these markets are not likely to continue in the Young-Quinlan Building this year, Strive Bookstore has signed on as a long-term tenant, said Shannon Fitzgerald, the Minneapolis Downtown Council’s director of downtown partnerships. But the bookstore is just the first phase for the first floor, with plans to use the space behind the bookstore as a coworking and event space in the near future. Details on this phase have yet to be released.

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In partnership with the Minneapolis Downtown Council, the Chameleon Shoppes serve as a link between small local retailers and available downtown retail space, Fitzgerald said. “The thing that we provide is a low-risk, low-cost lease. The Downtown Council actually signs the lease with the building owners, so we add that extra layer of protection, then the shop owners sign contracts with us.”

This means building ownership does not have to vet shop owners — a task carried out instead by Chameleon Shoppes. Rather than offering lease agreements at a fixed rate, lease cost is based on a percentage of revenue. Particularly in these mixed-use developments, building owners are incentivized to work with these retailers so their office tenants have amenities to use during the day.

While it is important to have retail space that entices workers back to downtown offices, supporting retail spaces is important to fostering the future retail environment, Fitzgerald noted. She added that the effort is in line with Mayor Jacob Frey’s Vibrant Downtown Storefronts Workgroup. The group was convened late last year and has acknowledged that the days of downtown serving as a retail hub are likely over. 

“Right now we have an issue of scale with some of the sizes of the shops that are available compared to some of the sizes of the spaces,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re not going to have the giant shops and the giant retail boxes in there anymore.”