Can the Dayton's Project Bring Back the Magic of Dayton's?

For years after it became Marshall Field’s, and then Macy’s, many stubborn, nostalgic locals insisted on referring to the site of 700 Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis as Dayton’s. Now, it appears that Dayton’s is back—sort of.

Over the weekend, workers were busy installing the beginnings of what the building’s new owners are referring to as “The Dayton’s Project.” According to an article published over the weekend in the Star Tribune, the company is hoping to revive the Dayton’s name and logo and make the building the center of retail in downtown Minneapolis by 2019.

The building was originally home to a dry goods business, R.S. Goodfellow & Company, then the fourth-largest department store in Minneapolis. The six-story building was constructed by George Draper Dayton, Dayton’s founder, in 1902. By 1903, Dayton bought the company and renamed the store Dayton’s Dry Goods Company. In 1969, the Detroit-based J.L. Hudson Company merged with the Dayton Company to form the Dayton-Hudson Corporation (later Target Corporation). In 2001, Dayton’s was rebranded as a Marshall Field’s store, and in 2004, Target Corp. sold its department store holdings to May Department Stores, rebranding the store once again, this time as Macy’s. The Macy’s iteration closed earlier this year, though it had long since lost its sparkle.

According to renderings of the revamped building, the new Dayton’s will look quite different inside. The new owners plan to cut away a portion of the first two levels to create an atrium-like space connected by grand staircases instead of escalators. The basement also will be substantially renovated. These lower levels will be filled with stores, restaurants, and a food hall with a mix of trendy vendors and dining options, while the upper floors of the mixed-use development will hold office space with a health club and large outdoor terrace.

A rendering of one of the spaces in the revamped Dayton’s building in downtown Minneapolis, Courtesy Gensler

But despite the major facelift, the new owners and designers are promising that the spirit of Dayton’s will remain intact. “This building has a great history, lot of good memories around it,” says Steven Bieringer of local architecture firm Gensler, one of the project’s designers, in the Star Tribune article. “So we are not going to be altering that, [or] those portions of the building.”

Many of the iconic elements of the original Dayton’s will remain, such as the infamous fourth-floor bathroom with retro turquoise sinks and tile. The new owners are also hoping to use some portions of the Oak Grill restaurant in another public part of the complex. They also are hoping to attract a restaurant for the original JB Hudson jewelry boutique on the first floor.

Of course, much of the magic belonging to the old Dayton’s is destined for the history books. Gone are the eighth-floor holiday displays and flower shows, along with the Glamorama fashion show, the Oval Room, and the painted-cloud ceilings of the Skyroom. Whether the new Dayton’s complex will recapture any of that je ne sais quoi is yet to be seen. (And no word yet on whether the iconic green marble floors will remain.) But at least we can rightfully call it “Dayton’s” again—without being corrected.

In the meantime, you can stop by and check out the new “The Dayton’s Project” installation, now on view: