RBC Plaza: Repositioning, Not Remodeling

Setting up an office tower for success

When two buildings come together to create a new whole, just making sure that the carpet matches isn’t enough—so when KBS Capital Advisors bought downtown Minneapolis’ 40-story RBC Tower and the four-story Gaviidae Common II next door, the collective partnership saw this as an opportunity to make a significant repositioning in the marketplace. Shea’s background of strategic positioning and branding, along with our understanding of the business and financial opportunities, made us the right partner to round out the KBS/Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq team.

Shea was brought in to merge the centrally-located buildings, ensuring that they’d be integrated seamlessly into one property and brand. It was clear that a simple remodel wouldn’t be enough to maximize the new space’s potential. We had an opportunity to create and introduce a completely new Class A building offering a valuable blend of retail and office space.

The team was a full integration of ownership, leasing, marketing and design.  Our process was meeting frequently (not going away and designing in a vacuum) to first determine the brand foundation, opportunity in the market, and point of differentiation.  We looked at examples, good and bad, and challenged ourselves to get inspired.  We sketched, we reviewed, we edited—and then we got excited.

A lot of strategy went into figuring out what to do with the new space. Our opportunity was not just to create the next generation Class A space.  Our opportunity was to create a completely different breed of building, creating an open and impactful consumer first impression not found in any other office tower. The fun part about the process and the partnership was that everyone was willing to go beyond their comfort zone to realize the new space’s full potential.  We sought all opinions to make the right choice for the brand direction, and didn’t give in to temptation to emulate more traditional spaces.

The design and business strategy for the space became clear: fully integrate the existing office tower with lower level, first and second floor of the existing retail, and convert the third and fourth retail floors into creative office space not found elsewhere in Minneapolis.  The new entrance and atrium took inspiration from the best new shopping streets and airports, combining services with products and food.  By integrating the lower level into the design, it brought the light and energy all the way through the tenant amenity center, complete with breakout work spaces, lounge areas, conference center, bike commuter lounge and a fitness/yoga area.  A key part of our overall design strategy was to use the budget effectively in areas that would make an impact.  That meant keeping a lot of the existing bones of the building (especially the variety of stones throughout) and trying to neutralize and simplify without the cost of ripping it all out and starting over.

RBC holds naming rights to its building, so a new name wasn’t an option—but a shift to the name RBC Plaza integrated Gaviidae and gave the new space a fresh start. A simple, clean logo was a no-brainer for the functional space, and Shea developed the brand, log, and materials, building up a marketing suite for the RBC team to use to promote the new space and meet with potential tenants.

Meanwhile, the first floor of Gaviidae Common was combined with the RBC lobby, creating an open, light-filled atrium. Adding glass made the space completely open—much more appealing than the two areas with their backs to each other. We didn’t stop there when it came to drawing people into the building. Shifting the building’s main entrance to Nicollet Mall, one of downtown’s main thoroughfares for foot traffic, meant that the lobby would make a striking first impression on all who passed by.

The lower level hosts a handful of the amenities necessary to attract quality tenants for the building—adding on the third and fourth floors of the former Gaviidae meant that there would be 60,000 square feet of new office space to lease. Adding a special bike commuter entrance and bike storage area (seriously, you have no idea what a premium feature that is in Minneapolis) and a high-quality fitness center with state-of-the-art machines and equipment (plus a yoga room because, you know, work gets stressful) meant that the plaza could boast about wellness initiatives when promoting itself.

Even the conference room design challenged the ordinary. Instead of traditional wood boardroom tables, we keep the space light and bright, using contemporary wood on the walls rather than the furniture. The result was rooms that invite interaction and energy, rather than feeling like the same old conference centers. The rooms also used non-traditional LED lights for productivity and efficiency, and we used bold color in the furniture on the neutral backdrop.

Modernizing is a big part of repositioning, and workers today like to meet in small groups in spaces that feel open and casual. We created a variety of breakout spaces in all of the common areas to facilitate employee communications.

Tools to draw tenants to the space didn’t stop with the amenity package on the lower floor. In the skyway level above the first-floor lobby, Shea-designed Sprout Salad Company and Affinity Plus credit union were slotted into two of RBC Plaza’s spaces. The third and fourth floors were closed off to be creative office space (the fourth floor is completely leased, and the third is in progress).

At Shea, we don’t stop caring when your logo is designed or the last sign is hung—we want to set our clients up for success. So we don’t settle for painting the walls, laying down new hardwoods, and just making a space pretty; we want to reposition our spaces to ensure that they can accomplish their future business goals. At the last walkthrough, our entire team recalled the early meetings and the collective vision, and there was a mutual celebration in achieving our brand and business goals.

That’s a success story.