Newsworthy: Rising to the Challenge

March 1, 2008

Designers turn barriers into benefits at retail facility

Sometimes one of the most difficult tasks in designing a building is not producing the design itself, but doing so in a way that cooperates with strict city building regulations.

KKE Architects faced several such difficulties in its recent design of a retail facility at 1313 Wayzata Blvd. in Wayzata, MN. But instead of losing heart, the design team found ways to use the guidelines to their advantage, creating an aesthetically pleasing facility that reflects the architectural image of its surroundings - and follows all the rules.

"Meeting very strict city design guidelines and satisfying challenging pedestrian access issues were just a few of the many challenges with this development," explains Jack Amdal, KKE's principal-in-charge.

Built on a site that for many years contained a restaurant, the building's brick exterior contains iron spots that not only add warmth and texture but also tie the brick in with the black trelliswork, railings, and storefronts. Large vertical panes of glass draw natural daylight deep into the building's tenant spaces and give the project an earthy, airy feel. The large windows invite customers to enjoy the scenic views of the site's adjacent wooded tree preserve, and the landscape design and trellises provide shade as well as a sense of enclosure for the outdoor dining spaces.

These features recently helped earn the 6,500-square-foot facility the Minnesota Shopping Center Association's (MSCA) 2007 STARR Award for Design & Aesthetics - Retail Under 50,000 Square Feet. But the process wasn't painless.

"The City of Wayzata's intense design process, along with its strict signage allowances, added a significant level of difficulty to the design of this high-demand property," says Lora Grgich, KKE's senior project architect and associate. "In fitting with the city's ‘new urbanism' design directive, the new building was pulled forward on the site, closer to the roadway."

This dictated the only possible parking location to be behind the building, leading to design complications. One was signage, which was required on two facades: the front for important street visibility and pedestrian access and the rear for tenant identification from the parking lot.

Grgich notes that the city of Wayzata required a pedestrian entrance from the street while the parking lot location necessitated an entrance from the other side. "1313 Wayzata Blvd. essentially has two fronts. The city would not agree to an increased signage allowance for this unusual circumstance, so the total signage allowance had to be split between the two facades.

To visibly present activity within and around 1313 Wayzata Blvd., two brightly colored dining patios for restaurant tenants were intentionally placed on the street side.

The attractive finished product proves that a little persistence and creativity go a long way in overcoming design challenges incurred by city guidelines.

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