In the Spotlight: The Award-Winning The Nic on Fifth®


​A recent winner of the Design Build Institute Upper Midwest region’s Excellence award for commercial building, The Nic on Fifth highlights the best in design-build multifamily construction and some key advantages of our design-build model. Winning this award acknowledges our design-build model’s ability to establish and meet goals, create and maintain an aggressive schedule, overcome challenges and provide value beyond the initial scope but within the guaranteed maximum price.

Establishing Goals to Effectively & Efficiently Meet Client Needs

By collaborating with the client, our design-build team was able to identify the three primary goals of the project.

  1. Reintroduce residential living to downtown Minneapolis
    A high-rise luxury apartment hadn’t been built in downtown Minneapolis in nearly three decades, so it was a major development risk, requiring seamless team collaboration. After performing innumerable studies evaluating many different building types for the site and market conditions, it was finally determined that a luxury apartment tower was a worthy effort for the site.
  2. Aggressive schedule and coordinated, phased turnovers
    Although there had been a lull in the construction of apartments downtown, the upswing of the construction market following the recession drove several developers and builders to take advantage of the low apartment vacancy rates in Minneapolis and build apartments. Our goal was to be first in, necessitating an aggressive schedule to open apartments before the market could become saturated.
  3. Continue our tradition of designing and building signature projects in downtown Minneapolis
    Our team members have helped shape the image of downtown Minneapolis with such projects as Fifth Street Towers, The Carlyle and Grant Park, and The Nic on Fifth allowed us to continue to redefine the Minneapolis skyline. The Nic also contributes to the City of Minneapolis’ long-term vision of updating Nicollet Mall.

Design-Build Expertise Confronts and Overcomes Challenges

As with all projects, we encountered challenges that allowed us to showcase the benefits of our design-build model.

  • Make the budget work while delivering a quality building
    A challenge that is not unique to The Nic, but was a large hurdle nonetheless, was balancing the vision of the building with the budget. In true design-build fashion, our team collaborated to perform several iterations of design development, estimating and value engineering to arrive at the finished product.
  • Safely and efficiently manage construction in a busy downtown
    Building downtown presented unique challenges. The close proximity to the light rail, sidewalks and major bus routes make for a great apartment location but also present conflicts with on-site storage, deliveries and crane use. Close collaboration with the city was required. We created a detailed delivery plan and distributed it to all material suppliers; it was also important to coordinate with Minneapolis Police to direct traffic when necessary.
  • Accommodate phased move-ins during ongoing construction
    With an aggressive schedule to facilitate early move-ins, we used phased turnovers. Although this sped up the project and brought in more revenue, it created schedule compression on construction activities and posed additional hurdles in separating occupied spaces and construction areas. The phased turnovers required coordination to obtain temporary certificates of occupancy, construction-use permits on the elevators, testing of life-safety systems and constant coordination with building management.

Adding Value with Truly Integrated Design Build

One of the most valuable aspects of our design-build model is fast tracking – the early integration of design and construction personnel, working with the Owner toward a common goal as a collaborative team, and allowing construction to start months earlier than the traditional project delivery model, which requires completion of full working drawings prior to starting construction.

With this collaboration, we were able to begin six months earlier than we would have if full construction contract drawings had been required before the project start. It also resulted in the acceleration of the phased turnover of apartments for occupancy. Rather than the originally planned four phases of turnovers, the schedule was condensed into three turnover phases. The first phase included two additional floors beyond the originally projected turnover area, and the second phase included three extra floors.

The Nic on Fifth now stands in downtown Minneapolis as a testament to the advantages of our design-build model.