" Minneapolis - St. Paul ranks among the top four 'Best United States Cities for Business' "
Located in Minnesota’s capital city of St. Paul, Cray Plaza is a 219,313 square foot, Class B+, multi-tenant office building, ideally situated on Mears Park in the Lowertown neighborhood of St. Paul’s Central Business District. Built over a two year period beginning in 1984, the Property is part of a much larger mixed–use development occupying an entire city block. Cray Plaza is occupied with a desirable mix of well-respected public, private, and government tenants. Cray, Inc., which leases 30% of the property, is a global leader in supercomputing.
Cray Plaza has seven levels of office space and first floor restaurants highlighted by Faces, a unique full-service restaurant and bar with panoramic views of Mears Park. The building is also located directly on the bus line and has incredibly close proximity to the freeways, allowing visitors easy access from all around the city. In addition, there are residential portions of the development and the Skyway YMCA, which is a five-level branch featuring a state-of-the-art fitness/child-care center that serves as an amenity for the property as well as the surrounding neighborhood. Accompanying the building is a five-level underground parking facility with 829 parking stalls.
Cray (formerly known as Galtier Plaza) which had its grand opening in 1986 in fact, was not designed once, but dozens of times. A project of such architectural, legal, and financial complexity on one square city block in a sensitive historic area is one of the toughest challenges an architect ever faces.
The conflicting designs of a developer and a nonprofit corporation committed to preserving the historic integrity of Lowertown had to be compromised under the pressure of the fast track schedule required by the UDAG (Urban Development Action Grant). In addition, tight budgets combined with swings in the economy changed the project's mix several times while construction was underway.
At one point, the building was completely redesigned to build more rental housing within the same total volume while reversing the balance between condos and apartments. But it was the massing of the several elements on the block that was the most important. The need to have a six-story base along the street front to maintain the cornice of the surrounding six-story buildings was dictated by historic and design considerations. The decision to fill out the block to the maximum met economic goals.
The housing, originally proposed as one corner tower cascading to the base, was instead split between two towers. The taller one (Jackson Tower), falls just under Federal Aviation Administration limits at 452 feet. The lower one (Sibley Tower) is 60 feet and is positioned towards the back of the Mears Park facade to lessen its impact. The atrium became a gabled roof which extruded beyond the building, stepping back to its seven-story peak. The skyway linking Cray and the Farm Credit Bank towards downtown sports a festive design with grand skylights and lots of glass.
Although most would agree it was a long and tortuous route to the final design, the building is now known as one of the most beautiful and well constructed pieces of architecture in Lowertown. Cray Plaza has set the standard for mixed use concepts with its new design that differed from the national mixed use trend. It also won the award for the first place design award excellence from Development Design Group, First Place from National Mall Monitor Center's of Excellence, and Signs of the Times award for electric sign graphics.