Outside a bakery on Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park, Minn., college students sporting those clear-rimmed Warby Parker glasses wait for a bus while, down the street, a young mother with blue tye-dye yoga pants totes two kids and a reusable bag filled with Trader Joe’s foodstuffs over to her car. St. Louis Park is an old Minneapolis suburb populated by the young, including young professionals. And it’s a community that the leadership of Bridgewater Bank has been eyeing for more than a decade.
“We’ve always wanted to be in this Excelsior Boulevard corridor,” said Jerry Baack, president and CEO. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Come July, the $2.3 billion bank, based in a stodgier suburb to the south, will finally stake its claim in St. Louis Park with a corporate headquarters, a process three years in development.
The bank previously proposed a branch in a space shared with Dominium Apartments, one of its biggest multi-housing clients. The city denied the plan in 2017 after a two-year effort, mainly due to concerns about traffic, density and a perceived lack of outdoor green space. At the time, St. Louis Park Councilmember Gregg Lindberg suggested the bank return to the drawing board and develop a project that worked for the community as a whole.
In 2018, Bridgewater’s leadership submitted a proposal for a four-story corporate bank headquarters. This time, its proposal won unanimous approval.
The building is perched on the northwest corner of Excelsior Boulevard and Monterey Drive, with the interior designed by MDG architects and the exterior designed by DJR architects. The 80,000-square-foot building will offer a full-service branch, corporate space on the second and third floors, with the top floor available to lease. At sidewalk level, plans are set for Hazellewood Tap Room and Grill to open.
“We had already gone through dealing with the city on all their requirements,” said Mary Jayne Crocker, chief operating officer, reflecting on the unsuccessful effort with Dominium Apartments. “So when we decided instead to build our corporate center, we already knew what the city and the residents were expecting.”
The corporate center accommodates walking and biking paths, and is nestled on the outskirts of downtown and uptown Minneapolis. The city of St. Louis Park offered the project tax increment financing, which required the bank put together an art committee as part of the development agreement. Based on the development costs, the bank was compelled to spend roughly $75,000 on public art.
Half of the required spending will go into a mural in the building’s four-story glass atrium at the back of the building, visible to walkers, bikers and shoppers leaving the nearby Trader Joe’s. The bank’s staff and their families have already begun painting broad strokes of color schemes on canvases, which artists will use as a base for the actual mural. The mural will include Orioles, the mascot of St. Louis Park’s high school, along with Minneapolis’ iconic Stone Arch Bridge, among other locally-inspired designs.
The remaining $40,000 and some change will go toward a 16-foot sculpture titled “Moment of Tangency,” which is crafted of corten, a weathering steel that develops a glossy green or brown sheen as it ages. It will be installed in the front garden area.
The sculpture’s meaning, Baack said, is “something about the moment of tangency.”
“Something about how paths cross,” said Jordan Palmstein, facilities manager.
The artistic description of the structure is: “Robust steel pillars erupt from the ground at an audacious angle, like outstretched arms seeking the heavens. Playfully arching back are more columns producing a counterbalance and an exquisite static — an ionic resonance between earth and sky, between viewer and sculpture. All wrapped with energetic twists of thick rod, painted a vibrant scarlet.”
“Moment of Tangency,” is meant to be bold, energetic, and represent raising the bar, much like the new neighborhood’s character and the culture at the bank. The median age in the neighborhood is 35, and the median age of employees at Bridgewater is 37.
“The main reason why we’re doing this at this location, is there are so many millennials who live in this area,” Baack said. “Part of the reason for doing this other than to get our whole workforce back together again is to be able to attract and retain the workforce we have.”
The current corporate office in Bloomington is the most southern of the bank’s locations. The St. Louis Park office would be the most equally accessible to all of the branches. When the bank leaders began brainstorming what the new corporate office may be like, they mainly toured tech companies for ideas.
Bridgewater hired 51 employees in 2019, more than 20 so far in 2020, and now has 170 employees. The corporate center will have ping-pong and foosball in a game room, local Minnesota beer on tap, workout facilities with showers, and green space for grilling and chilling in the front.
There will be 11 conference rooms named after popular Twin Cities neighborhoods: Linden Hills, Powderhorn, Summit Hill and the North Loop among others. Multipurpose rooms with glass walls will allow employees to work together in booths or tables. Independent work areas will overlook the neighborhood, allowing employees to work flexibly throughout the office. “We’ve got a lot of different areas where people can go and sit and look out the window and not necessarily just be at their desk,” Crocker said.
The bank is already over budget on the project, primarily due to soil conditions. The land on which the center is being built used to drop off into a landfill in the early 1900s, resulting in a discrepancy in soil conditions. The bank expects its new headquarters to cost roughly $35 million.