Introducing the Arch de Star and Tribune

This interesting architecture proposal crossed my desk today, and I wanted to throw it out there. Minneapolis has been so consistently good  at tearing down buildings over the last century, it’d be nice to slow that process.

Any thoughts about this?

strib arch


Here’s the email from the architect:

I understand that a final vote on the Ryan Companies proposal will take place this Friday. I fear that the fate of the Star Tribune Building is confusingly tied up in the overall decision on the project, and that a win-win opportunity will be missed. The triumphal arch scheme I have put forth will satisfy the majority of preservationists while improving Ryan’s hoped-for park—without interfering with the more general progress of the project.


If the Ryan proposal is accepted by Council, please include a proviso that the triumphal arch portion of the building remain—at least until further study can be done. Doing so will not delay Ryan’s project.


I believe the value of the scheme is apparent: A large park needs architectural elements to punctuate it visually, provide a locus for activities, and promote the safety and comfort of its users. The arch will help in all such regards: it could provide a setting for performing arts, food vending, socializing, tourist information, security guards, and perhaps public restrooms. A screen could be lowered from the top of the arch to show movies, and a demountable stage could accommodate musical performances, stage plays, political events, graduations, and sports rallies. The upper levels also could be programmed: a restaurant or meeting space on the top floor overlooking the park would present an opportunity to generate considerable revenue.


Successful cities are places of evolutionary change. They work best not when serviceable structures are wholly demolished or taxidermically preserved, but when they are sensitively altered to accommodate new uses. The Star Tribune Building served Minneapolis for so long precisely because of such adaptation; it deserves a continued role in Minneapolis’ future. Please require that the triumphal arch portion of the building be preserved, at least until further study is undertaken. No undue delay will likely result.


Many thanks for your ear.



Matthew Frederick  

h/t to Max Musicant for sending this my way.

12 thoughts on “Introducing the Arch de Star and Tribune

  1. Sam NewbergSam Newberg

    I have to admit, this would be pretty cool. I was thinking the same thing – an image speaks a thousand words!

  2. Nathaniel M Hood

    This is idea is as good as any.

    In all my reading and studies of urban history, geography, development, planning, etc., etc., Never once have I come across an excerpt that said, “Man, I’m glad we tore down that historic building”. Usually it’s future generations, looking back 50 years from now saying, “What in the world were they thinking?” – Why must we continually repeat the past?

    Also, I call “BS” on Ryan Companies assertion that without this building torn down and turned into a park, the $400m development won’t be feasible. If that’s your break-even point, then your development isn’t worth doing in the first place.

    1. Adam MillerAdam

      So you’re saying that people write a lot more about nostalgia than about redevelopment? Huh.

      It’s one thing to tear down an old building and replace it with nothing (see, e.g., the entire Gateway district). It’s another to tear one down and reuse the land for something productive. Absent true historic significance (I’m not sure housing the local paper counts), I don’t shed many tears over reuse.

      Whether replacing a building with a park is reuse is a debatable question.

      Anyway, I kind of like the arch idea, although I don’t know how feasible it is.

    2. Sam NewbergSam Newberg

      Good point Nate, but in defense of Ryan Companies, within the constraints of the proposed project and what public dollars are being allocated towards, it is infeasible to save the Star Tribune building – office rents don’t cover costs to renovate. But there is the catch, if a different project were proposed there could be funding, through historic tax credits or source, to reuse the building.

      A developer (or architect or planner) is only as good as its client….

      1. Nathaniel

        Very good point: “A developer (or architect or planner) is only as good as its client….”

        By the way – the Star Tribune building could be some great “Class B” office space! Something desperately needed in Downtown. Certainly the market would be difficult to justify. I do still feel that saving the Star Tribune building has more economic justification than tearing it down for park land. The park would just be a tad smaller. Historic tax credits would likely be needed.

        I have also questioned whether or not this building should be designated historic. I go back-and-forth on it. From an urban design standpoint, it is unremarkable. Architecturally, it’s okay. However, to a certain degree, I have a fondness of saving mediocre architecture. I think we can grow to love it.

        1. Adam MillerAdam

          I have no fondness for saving architecture at all. If all that is is historically significant about a building is its architecture, let’s take lots of pictures, preserve the blue prints and do our best to remember it.

          Okay, so that’s a bit hyperbolic, but only a bit.

  3. David Baur

    The Star Trib building has always struck me as being largely unremarkable, but to Nate’s point we rarely look back fondly on knocking down old buildings. This is certainly better than a total demolition. It preserves the most noteworthy part, pays homage to the history and serves as a focal point for the proposed park space.

    I could see this being a cool location for things like Northern Spark or even the Fringe Festival.

    1. Nathaniel

      I feel that some alternative needs to be found. I think that future societies will regret tearing it down, if that is indeed what we decide to do.

  4. Jon

    I like the Arch idea, really cool and never would have thought of that. Anything that can integrate the history of an area into a modern usage I am all for.

  5. Samuel GeerSamuel Geer

    I think this makes very little sense for a couple of reasons. First of all, I think that the Strib building isn’t all that remarkable to begin with and secondly because this kind of thing doesn’t really preserve anything except a bit of facade and then it would likely would be disjointed with the rest of the design for the park and the new architecture. Either keep the building or demolish it and do something that is more sensible.

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