A Vision Realized—58 Years in the Making: One Southdale Place Apartments

The American shopping mall—considered by many to be the most influential architectural development of the last 100 years—was first designed and built in Edina, Minnesota, an affluent suburb bordering Minneapolis.

By Jack Barbaccia, AIA, Managing Architect, BKV Group

The American shopping mall—considered by many to be the most influential architectural development of the last 100 years—was first designed and built in Edina, Minnesota, an affluent suburb bordering Minneapolis. After its immediate commercial success in 1958, Southdale Center soon became the model for building malls throughout the world. Now it is transforming its iconic status into the center of a suburban/urban revival with the addition of One Southdale Place, a luxurious multi-family housing development built around a re-envisioned mall. Together, this new live-work-play hub promotes high-end retail, luxury living and a sophisticated culture while realizing a 50-year-old idea. Simon Malls is partnering with housing developer StuartCo and award-winning architect BKV Group to create a development that attracts the esteemed fundamentals of the Edina community back to Southdale Center.

The original 1956 vision

Southdale Center was the original vision of Victor Gruen, an Austrian-born American architect and city planner. He was the pioneer of the regional shopping center and the renewal and revitalization of city core areas. In creating Southdale Center, his goal was to make the suburbs more urban—taking downtown’s main street and turning it inside—establishing a new town center for a new community. While Southdale was successful commercially, Gruen’s original design was never fully realized. The apartment buildings, schools, medical facilities, park and lake that were intended to support the mall were never built.

Instead of growing around a center, Edina has sprawled like other suburbs. Most urban areas have seen the demand for multi-family living increase steadily over the years, but the suburbs have remained the domain of the single-family neighborhood and even the infamous gated community. Edina has been renowned for its luxurious single-family living for decades. But in recent years it has seen the rise of empty nesters and young marrieds and singles that want to stay in Edina.

“I routinely hear from those who have raised their families here how much they enjoy the community and want to remain in Edina, but don’t want to maintain their larger homes,” said Bill Neuendorf, Economic Development Manager at City of Edina. “They want more options that allow them to maintain their community connections and standard of living, but with the ease and convenience of a pedestrian-friendly lifestyle.”

The trend is called lifestyle community and at One Southdale Place, it is the realization of Gruen’s original vision—50 years in the making. One that just might spark a re-think of the suburban mall.

The best rental living in Edina

“There was a real synergy for Simon Malls to utilize this part of their property for rental apartments,” said Stuart Nolan, founder and chairman of StuartCo. “The market warrants more high-end rental space, which supports Simon’s direction in revitalizing Southdale Center and better utilizes that portion of this 1.0-million-square-foot site. The City of Edina is also looking to drive more density with the mall as a hub for not only shopping and entertainment, but for transit.”

But building just another rental development wasn’t sufficient. The owner/developer team wanted to create the best rental community in the Twin Cities, i.e., the place to live in the elite suburb of Edina. Full-service architectural design firm BKV Group was called to deliver a design that met that vision: a modern lifestyle community befitting the high standard of living in Edina and supporting the mall as a community center while meeting the development’s financial goals.

“Several trends came together on this project,” said Michael Krych, AIA, partner at BKV Group. “We’re seeing the need for higher density development in first-ring suburbs, a desire for lifestyle living with luxurious spaces and high-end amenities within the structure as well as the revival of the town center — hubs for living, working/commuting and playing.”

Edina is a fairly traditional suburb, but the team felt this development should be very different.

“We all felt this was a very special project,” said Krych. “This was a 50-year-old idea from a legendary architect and urban planner that had the potential to change the landscape of this entire area, and potentially, mall development worldwide. This project is the only apartment community in Edina connected directly to a newly renovated and repositioned mall. We wanted the building to reflect the fashion-forward feel of Simon Malls’ remodel and immediately speak to the luxury-living inside.”

BKV Group’s Structural System

Creating a design to accommodate the number of units needed to make the project viable as well as the expectation of luxury modern living was a driving force in the design’s development. BKV’s architects and engineers had been creating a unique system for a mid-rise building, which was the most compatible size for the One Southdale project and for the City. The new system uses a steel-stud structure instead of a wood frame or concrete.

“There is a sweet spot between low- and high-rise structures where steel is the most cost-effective and efficient for a mid-rise building on the site,” said Jack Boarman, founding partner at BKV Group. “Our engineers have developed a steel-stud bearing wall technology that allows for fast industrialized construction — highly repeatable and efficient. It has effectively lowered the cost of the mid-rise multi-family structure, and our clients can use their budget for the quality finishes and materials their residents demand.”

Both owners and communities looking for higher density without the expense or mass of a 25-story high-rise can truly appreciate the effectiveness of this system.

“There is a paradigm shift taking place in both urban and suburban communities,” said Boarman. “Communities are wanting more density to combat urban spread, create transit corridors to reduce traffic and carbon emissions, promote more ground-floor commercial office and retail, etc. But they aren’t comfortable with the pricey high-rise. Our mid-rise system is a viable alternative that can deliver the higher quality of life urban/suburban communities and residents are looking for.”

Because general contractor Kraus Anderson had not utilized a system like this on a 10-story structure prior to One Southdale Place, they felt collaboration with key partners the best approach to ensuring BKV’s system met its expectations. “We brought everyone together—the architect, structural engineer, an outside engineering consultant and the subcontractor performing the work—to verify every detail,” said Jamie Engelsma, project manager for Kraus Anderson. “Everyone really worked well together and went the extra mile to ensure we were all comfortable with how the structure would go up. The time we spent on the front-end has been more than justified with how fast the building is being erected. This system is indeed proving to be more cost-effective and faster than traditional methods.”

Lifestyle Living

How to achieve 232 units on a five-acre site, with an urban modern fashion-forward look, luxurious amenities and a neighborhood feel? The design team gave Simon Malls and StuartCo several design options. The winner was a three-building development that sits triangularly on the site with each building backing a large shared courtyard.

A three-story, five-story and a ten-story high-rise: the different typographies show liveliness, a variety of choice within the community. Each building features nine-foot ceilings, open floor plans, luxurious finishes including granite countertops and stainless steel appliances and wonderful daylighting with oversized windows as well as patios and terraces incorporated into each unit. Apartment sizes include studios, one-, two-, three-bedroom apartments and penthouses. The main entrance is dramatically focused, constructed entirely of glass to highlight the courtyard beyond.

“We wanted to create connectivity between the units, Southdale and this new Edina center,” said Krych. “We created walk-up apartments on the first floor with patios, and added new sidewalks to create a very neighborhood feel.”

“This project returns this whole intersection to people first, ” said Neuendorf. “The buildings relate to each other, to the Westin, to the Galleria. Now there will be a sense of place where people feel comfortable walking their dog or taking their kids to the library.”

Lifestyle living means amenities. So in addition to a neighborhood feel with walkable urban-style living, One Southdale Place offers the amenities of a destination spa or resort:

  • A roof-top patio with a sky park on building one
  • A dual-purpose clubroom
  • A business center
  • A central courtyard with fireplace and barbeque area
  • Outdoor pool
  • 24-hour fitness center
  • Private theater room
  • A full-service concierge
  • Lawn bowling
  • Underground heated parking

Revisioning the Suburbs

“This project meets a number of items on the City’s strategic plan for growth in this area,” said Mayor James Hovland, City of Edina. “We want to increase density by providing more multi-family housing and create more vitality and connectivity between where people live, work and play. The quality of the building and the amenities it will offer are great attractions for a mix of new residents from millennials to boomers. We couldn’t be more thrilled with the project and the StuartCo team.”

Encouraging more multi-family living around the mall establishes this new center of Edina as a transit corridor to downtown Minneapolis. This means more residents, more retail, more businesses to encourage more economic growth and to utilize the City’s strong infrastructure. This new Edina will allow people to experience the luxury and affluence of the suburb, but have the lifestyle living of an urban neighborhood. And downtown Minneapolis is less than 10 miles from Southdale, so working downtown and living in the suburb won’t mean you have to sacrifice the attributes of urban living or have a long commute.

“Literally, you can live here and walk/take a bus to a very good office job, walk to the grocery store, then shop for clothes, eat at a restaurant and then go to a movie. It’s all within 600 feet of your home, ” said Stuart Nolan of StuartCo.

This is a trend throughout major US cities. Inner-ring suburbs are finding that just like their urban centers, they must increase density, promote transit, take full advantage of their infrastructure to grow and remain vital. The fact that this is happening in Edina, the forefront of Gruen’s plan for the urbanizing of the suburbs seems fortuitous.

“Seeing the coming of age of Gruen’s original, insightful futuristic vision for this property is something truly special,” said Edina City Manager Scott Neal. “We really feel strongly that the energy of this project will lead the next phase of development for our city.”

Realizing the Dream

Innovative design leading innovative development, and the cherry on top is realizing a 50-year-old vision of a design legend. One Southdale Place Apartments is living up to its promise as the best rental property in the Twin Cities: a new center for living, working, shopping and playing in Edina, and an innovative solution for the mid-rise modern lifestyle community. With the growing need for sustainable transit, infrastructure and higher density housing, Edina, Southdale Center and One Southdale Place may very well fully realize Victor Gruen’s original design and prove the model for suburban re-development for years to come.

One Southdale Place is expected to be completed Summer/Fall 2014 with the first two building’s ready for occupancy in August 2014 and the third in October 2014. For information about renting contact StuartCo at 952-948-9557.


Your Home. Our Commitment. This has been our foundation since StuartCo was founded in 1970, and has continued as we have grown our business from a 150-unit property to 5,000 units today. This commitment applies to our entire portfolio – from a small 22-unit property to our largest 344-unit property. Our portfolio represents a diverse array of properties including market rate apartments and townhomes, a senior housing campus that includes Memory Care, Independent Living and Assisted Living, affordable housing and commercial.

BKV Group

Founded in 1978, BKV Group is an award winning multi-disciplinary firm with 110 design professionals currently delivering $350 million in construction value across offices in Minneapolis, Minn. and Chicago, Ill. and Washington, D.C. BKV Group provides services for a wide range of market segments including Housing, Commercial, Higher Education and Government. For more information about our multi-family housing practice or our steel-stud construction method, please contact BKV Group, or visit www.bkvgroup.com