Skip links

Residential Conversion and a Mirror

Office-to-residential conversion is a hot topic lately, the result of a tight housing market and the remote-work depression in commercial office space. The following is, at best, anecdata but gives a minor sense of that process for older buildings.

I recently stayed in the Rand Tower Hotel in Minneapolis. Rand Tower is a 1929 office building that was fairly recently converted to hotel use. The picture above shows it shortly before dawn, with one of Minneapolis’s ubiquitous skyways bridges in front. I’m happy to say that the exterior lighting was not visible from within the hotel room. The architectural style is usually called Art Deco, although it’s more machine-age than the original Deco style. The floors are square in plan and small, which made it a better candidate for residential use than most office buildings constructed after World War II, since the interior space is never far from a window. Here’s a clear view of the building shortly after completion, courtesy of the Hennepin County Library:

The other thing that struck me about this building is that it has a fraternal twin in New York, the 1928 Panhellenic Tower. The two buildings are not identical but they are quite similar. Given the timing of their construction, I doubt that Rand was influenced by Panhellenic, but rather both represent an idea in design that was going around at the time. Panhellenic was built as a residential hotel and has bounced back and forth between hotel and apartment use. Here’s a picture emphasizing the similarity to Rand.

Both Rand and Panhellenic have the windows set back from the main planes of the facades, which can create a dramatic striped effect when the light is at the right angle. You can see it in my nighttime photo above and in this photo of Panhellenic: