Our YouTube series “AEC All-Stars” continues with an exclusive tour of Sherman Associates’ historic renovation of the J.I. Case building in the Mill City District of downtown Minneapolis. Join us as Chris Sherman, President of Sherman Associates, shares insights into the building’s historical significance and modern innovation.
The Back Story
Sherman Associates, a renowned developer with a 45-year legacy in multi-family housing, hotels, and commercial structures, has long called the J.I. Case building their corporate headquarters. In fact, they reestablished their presence there 24 years ago and reverted its name to the original J.I. Case about 18 months ago.
Amidst the rapid growth of the Mill City neighborhood – marked by a surge in residents, workspaces, restaurants, and entertainment – Sherman Associates spotted an opportunity. By leveraging historic tax credits, they set their sights on repositioning the J.I. Case building to align the present surroundings, while preserving the integrity of its history.
After meticulous renovations, Sherman Associates unveiled a revitalized 28,000-square-foot office space. This transformation was not merely physical; it catalyzed a boost in productivity, collaboration, and enthusiasm among their expanding team of 85. Above all, the space serves as a tribute to both the historical essence of the building and the company's legacy.
Sherman Associates' renovated headquarters in downtown Minneapolis' J.I. Case building showcases a seamless blend of past and present. Every design choice, every feature is thoughtfully curated to tell a story. Here are a few standouts:
A Living Timeline: The company's lineage is artistically portrayed on a dedicated wall, tracing George Sherman's journey from his college days to spearheading development projects in Minneapolis.
Spaces with Stories: Every conference room tells a tale. Names like "The Moment" aren't mere labels; they're reflections of milestones, like their transformative housing project equipped with a pioneering healing center for burn victims.
Lighting the Past: For close to three decades, the Old Spaghetti Factory was more than just a tenant J.I. Case building; they were a staple in the community. As homage, specially-designed spaghetti noodle light fixtures illuminate the office.
Pockets of Tranquility: The building's historic freight elevator shaft, previously used for transporting farming equipment, has been transformed into relaxation zones. Complete with unique seating arrangements and inviting swings, these spaces allow team members to take a break and unwind.
Bridging Teams: The expansive 15-foot-wide stairwell connecting two main floors isn't merely architectural grandeur. With a strategically placed seating area, it becomes an arena for spontaneous collaborations and casual meetings.
History Revived: Central to the space is a table crafted from a 130-year-old door, originally part of the building itself. This piece serves not only as a nod to the building's past, but also as a testament to Sherman Associates' dedication to preserving history while adapting to the future.
Renovating a historic building comes with its own unique set of challenges. For Sherman Associates, the use of historic tax credits meant that they had to carefully adhere to the standards set by the National Park Service, a process they became familiar with after tackling numerous historic deals over the past 25 years.
At times, the challenge wasn’t just about preserving what's there but also innovatively integrating it into a modern office space. For instance, with aspects like the elevator shaft, there wasn’t much flexibility to change or reshape; instead, they had to innovate within the confines, designing around these historic elements.
Perhaps the most significant constraint was with the rooftop. Previously a gravel rooftop, the renovation vision included transforming it into a usable space – effectively adding a new floor. However, setback provisions and historic views had to be considered, especially when integrating new construction into a historic framework. In collaboration with a historic consultant and their diligent design team, they meticulously ensured the new rooftop's footprint aligned with the National Park's requirements.
Despite these obstacles, the outcome is a beautifully integrated space. The rooftop now serves as an oasis for team members, offering a place for lunch, relaxation after work, and even just a breath of fresh air. Above all, it grants a spectacular view of the Mill City District.
At the forefront of this project was a team from Sherman Associates: George Sherman (CEO), Chris Sherman (President), Trevor Martinez (Developer), Ben Kepple (Dir. Of Commercial Leasing), and Alex Syverson (Commercial Associate). The architectural design of the project was crafted by Blumentals Architecture, while its construction was expertly handled by Gardner Builders.
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