Thursday, January 05, 2017

Goodbye, Dayton's

You're not gonna make it, after all
It hasn't been Dayton's for a long time now, but the huge set of buildings that was once the flagship of the Dayton Hudson department store chain, where Mary Tyler Moore famously tossed her tam, is now being closed for good by its current owner, Macy's:
Macy’s Inc. is closing the biggest store in downtown Minneapolis.

The retail giant said Wednesday that it is selling the three buildings on Nicollet Mall that the store occupies, a place known to Minnesotans for decades as the flagship of the Dayton’s department store chain. A New York firm with a record of remaking older properties will take over.

The move ends more than a century of department store retailing in the heart of Minneapolis.

Shoppers have wondered for several years whether the store would survive as Macy’s was shuttering stores in city centers across the United States. Company executives signaled last year that they were seeking a buyer for the Minneapolis property after they failed to form a redevelopment team for the site.

Macy’s announced the deal as part of a larger restructuring that involves dozens of other store closings and a cut of about 10,000 of its 150,000 jobs across the country. About 280 people will lose their jobs when the downtown Minneapolis store closes in March.
I worked for Dayton Hudson, now known as Target, for nearly ten years. I spent a lot of time in the downtown store, but I really didn't buy that much. If I needed something, I was more likely to buy it at Rosedale. I was hardly alone in that, and Macy's is keeping its Rosedale location open. Thousands of office workers in downtown Minneapolis would walk through the store every day but I'm guessing they didn't buy much, either.

The downtown department store of my youth was H.C. Prange, which had a six-story monolith in downtown Appleton, Wisconsin. I'm guessing this picture was taken about 1970 or so, around the same time that Moore tossed her tam:

The big white puzzle palace on College Avenue
Many towns had a big department store like Dayton's or Prange's. Chicago had Marshall Field's, Detroit had Hudson's, Los Angeles had Robinson's. They were great places to shop and, for a kid who didn't have money, a great place to kill an afternoon, as long as you kept your hands off the merchandise. Those days are long gone. The downtown department store has been going away for a long time now. Prange's decamped for the mall years ago and is now part of the Younkers chain. The Prange building in Appleton is now a multi-use space that includes offices, a children' museum, and City Hall. The old white monolith has been opened up somewhat; this picture shows the building from the opposite side and was taken about five years ago:

Windows on the world
Things change. The business model that made sense for Prange's, and for the Dayton family, is no longer viable. The business model for suburban mall shopping locations seems to be changing even as we go about our business now. In 20 years, a mall Macy's may seem as quaint and out of date as the downtown buildings we remember. One could write books about the reasons for these changes; people do. We adapt, though -- we always adapt.


Bike Bubba said...

Paging City Hall....this is what happens when you let policing go and make it tough to get to downtown shopping. What used to be downtown is now found at the Galleria in Edina, at Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove, and at the MOA....and unless City Hall wraps its mind around transportation and public safety, it ain't coming back.

R.A. Crankbait said...

I work in downtown Minneapolis for most of my career in this state. I passed through Dayton's regularly on my way to lunch or on other errands. Occasionally the shirt or sportcoat might catch my eye and be purchased, but most necessities were found more affordably elsewhere. Nevertheless I always liked the buzz and fragrance of the place and all the attractive merchandise. It's part of what made being downtown feel like downtown. It smelled like "success"! The last couple of times I've been through there though the atmosphere has seemed to be more surly. And there is no way I would make a trip downtown just to shop; the parking is prohibitive and the cities' ongoing efforts to be "pedestrian friendly"are not well-suited to this particular pedestrian.

Mr. D said...

Yeah, I think policing is a factor, but cost is the larger driver (so to speak). I don't have to pay to park at Rosedale, and it's closer to my house as well. All other things being equal, there would be no reason to go to downtown Minneapolis for my shopping. I will be interested to see what happens to the building once the new developer takes over.

Bike Bubba said...

Agreed, but part of that cost is the simple fact that none of us seriously considered Minneapolis as a home, no? You either had super high prices in South or super high crime in North. So we went to the 'burbs and then it was cheaper to shop there.

I guess it's an old phenomenon, though. My grandparents left Chicago for Brookfield in 1940 because my aunt was coming along and they couldn't find suitable housing at a reasonable price back then, either. Lot of fixing before that problem reverses itself...

Mr. D said...

I don’t know that it’s even a problem, Bubba. We chose our community because it was affordable and the schools are good. When my wife and I first came to Minnesota, we lived in St. Paul, in Mac/Groveland, which is a very nice area. We had an opportunity to buy a house in that area, but we passed because we weren’t sure the house would suit our needs long-term. I’m sure someone else is living there now and is happy to be there. We looked around most of the metro and looked at a number of different areas, including some places in south Minneapolis that we liked rather a lot, but in the end, we chose the northern burbs; it’s worked out well for us.

Bike Bubba said...

I'd argue it's a problem--you have a "dead zone" or "no man's land" of miles between jobs and livable communities. Roads like 394 and 35W aren't free, no? Plus, when you argue--rightly--that the cities really didn't have affordable housing for families, you simultaneously point out that cities have built their political structure around single people and the poor. And we wonder why the schools are awful with that going on? It's a cycle of spiraling down the drain, really.

R.A. Crankbait said...

cities have built their political structure around single people and the poor. And we wonder why the schools are awful with that going on? It's a cycle of spiraling down the drain, really.

Which is why the cities are trying so desperately to force people into high-density (but expensive) developments and turning automobile driving into the new "stop smoking" campaign to bring "diversity" back to the cities.

Mr. D said...

Plus, when you argue--rightly--that the cities really didn't have affordable housing for families, you simultaneously point out that cities have built their political structure around single people and the poor. And we wonder why the schools are awful with that going on? It's a cycle of spiraling down the drain, really.

Except that wasn't the argument I was making. All I was saying is that, for me, it made more sense to be in the northern suburbs. There are good schools and bad schools in Minneapolis; things aren't as bad here as they are in Chicago or Milwaukee. The long-term trendline isn't great, but things aren't so far gone that a turnaround is impossible. It's possible, even likely, that school choice will be even more readily available going forward as well. And the option of home schooling is still there. I'm choosing to be optimistic for the moment.

Bike Bubba said...

I'm sure holding out hope that they can turn it around--for the neighborhoods and city center shopping alike. There are a lot of good things you can get online, but I still hesitate to buy things like clothes that way. Far nicer to have the salesman take a quick look at you, ask what you need, and have three or four good choices from the right rack within a minute.

And quite frankly, when I take a look at a Google Maps for Detroit, one interesting thing is that Hamtramck is a nice "hole" in their "dead zone." They hardly have any vacant lots or burned out houses. Fix policing, families, and schools, and all those vacant lots in Motor City start looking like opportunities for larger, more modern homes and vibrant communities. Same thing with Chicago, Milwaukee, and the like. Kinda like the brownstones in Gotham, no?