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Armory project earns award for local engineers.

Byline: Brian Johnson

As part of the team tasked with renovating the historic Minneapolis Armory, Minneapolis-based Mattson MacDonald Young faced the daunting challenge of turning a deteriorating Depression-era building into a modern event space.

The company, along with building owner Swervo Development Corp. and others, was up to the job. Since it reopened in December 2017, the historic building has been a magnet for topline concerts and other big events.

For its role as the project's structural engineering firm, Mattson MacDonald Young is getting a "National Recognition Award" from the American Council of Engineering Companies. The organization likens the honor to the "Academy Awards of the engineering industry."

Eric McElrath, an engineer with Mattson MacDonald Young, said one of the goals was to create a more functional entertainment and event space within a building used for a different purpose in the past.

The biggest challenge was trying to retain as much of the building's historic fabric as possible while meeting the vision of the developer, he said.

"[The developer] really wanted and was interested in multiple mezzanines, and structurally trying to get that to work and fit within a building that was designed for a different purpose was the challenge," he said.

The renovated building has new mezzanine levels, one of which is suspended from the roof along each side of the venue. The design involved a "more creative use of columns" to create good sight lines and functionality, McElrath said.

Another notable feature is the new event-space floor elevated 13 feet above the original surface. The floor was raised, in part, to improve the intimacy of the venue and enhance the acoustics, according to the project team.

The renovated building features more than 24 new wall openings that link two previously isolated spaces, ACEC noted. That was accomplished, the organization said, without compromising the building's structural integrity.

Built in 1935 as a Minnesota National Guard training facility, the 300,000-square-foot Minneapolis Armory was once the "most expensive building in Minnesota," according to the Armory's website.

Architect P.C. Bettenburg, a major in the Minnesota National Guard, designed the original building.

Prior to the renovation, from the 1930s to the '70s, the building hosted civic events, concerts, political conventions and sporting events ranging from professional basketball to boxing, the website noted.

But the building was underused for years and fell into disrepair. Proposed new uses came and went. In the 1990s, for example, a local developer even toyed with the idea of turning the building into an indoor driving range.

Minneapolis-based Swervo Development paid $6 million for the Armory in 2015.

"The Armory is an iconic property with a rich history; we're excited to redevelop the building in a way that preserves its signature style, honors its history and integrates the property into a revitalized Downtown East," Ned Abdul, president of Swervo, said in a statement in 2015.

The two-year renovation included replacement of a leaky roof, mold remediation, and installation of soundproofing and acoustic walls. Other flourishes range from new bathrooms and common spaces to a VIP balcony.

The cost of the renovation was not disclosed.

Besides Mattson MacDonald Young, the project team included David J. Kelly Architect Inc. (architect) and Swervo Development Corp. (owner and contractor).

In all, ACEC recognized 196 projects across the U.S. for "exemplary engineering." Award criteria include "uniqueness and originality, technical innovation, social and economic value and generating excitement for the engineering profession."

Previously, ACEC's Minnesota chapter presented Mattson MacDonald Young with 2019 "Grand and Honor Awards" for the Armory renovation. Finance & Commerce recognized it as a 2017 "Top Project."

Mattson MacDonald Young and the Armory are now in line for other national honors, including ACEC's "Grand Conceptor Award" for the year's "most outstanding overall engineering achievement."

Award winners will be recognized at the ACEC's 52nd annual Engineering Excellence Awards. The event is set for May 7 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C.

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Related:

Top Projects of 2017: The Minneapolis Armory

Swervo takes over Armory renovation

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Publication:Finance and Commerce
Geographic Code:1U4MN
Date:Mar 6, 2019
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