Ford Center: A Well-Oiled Machine

By: Tanner Johnston

In the heart of the historic North Loop neighborhood of downtown Minneapolis stands Ford Center. The property is easy to spot thanks to its dark red-brick exterior and distinctive rooftop water tower emblazoned with the Ford name. Today, it is a 10-story, 270,000-square-foot office building, but it began its life in 1914 as a Ford assembly plant that produced 287 Model T cars every day.

The building has served many functions over its lifetime, from a busy factory to an artist’s loft. In 2007, it began its latest chapter under the ownership of United Properties. That’s also when Ryan Moore, RPA, with Cushman & Wakefield, began his tenure as senior property manager of Ford Center. “It’s great to see how a historic building like Ford Center can be revitalized with the right vision from its ownership,” says Moore.

The initial acquisition and subsequent $42 million renovation of the building by United Properties helped spark the revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood, and in 2012, the property underwent a major remodel. In 2014, after the successful completion of this facelift, Moore and his team applied for and successfully earned the BOMA 360 designation.

According to Moore, the property team had many reasons for wanting to earn the BOMA 360 designation. First, the application process provided an opportunity to ensure that the team was using the latest industry best practices in building operations. “You have to make sure all aspects of your building’s operations are in place and up-to-date, and completing the BOMA 360 application is a great opportunity to do that,” Moore explains. The designation also served as an effective marketing tool to show existing and future tenants the quality of operations his team provides. Achieving the BOMA 360 designation also served as validation that the work the property team does inside the building matches Ford Center’s iconic exterior.

What makes Ford Center an outstanding example of a BOMA 360 building isn’t just its status as a Minneapolis landmark with a colorful past, but also its ownership and management’s focus on excellence. Moore and his team are constantly searching for opportunities to improve their tenants’ experience. For example, to provide additional lunch options for occupants, the property team arranged for a food truck to visit the building each day. The building ownership also hosts monthly socials on the building’s rooftop deck, offering tenants sweeping views of the adjacent Target Field, home to Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins.

In addition to the BOMA 360 designation, Ford Center also has a place on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) as part of the Minneapolis Warehouse Historic District. However, managing an officially recognized historic site presents unique management challenges. For example, the building features an underfloor air distribution system due to restrictions on ceiling heating and cooling ducts. Strict limits prevent any additional signage from being added to the building’s façade, and Tenants may only drill holes into the mortar of the building’s brick walls, as the bricks themselves are protected by NHRP regulations.

In 2016, Ford Center won a The Outstanding Building of the Year® (TOBY®) Award from BOMA International in the Historical Building category. Although Ford Center was already a strong contender, Moore believes the building’s BOMA 360 designation two years earlier was integral in securing their victory. “If you look at the TOBY candidates, you’ll see that a majority of the winners have the BOMA 360 designation. Having the designation separates you from the pack,” Moore says. The building also renewed its BOMA 360 designation in 2017.

When asked what advice he would give to a first-time BOMA 360 applicant, Moore stressed the importance of properly utilizing the entire property team: “The whole team got involved to bring the pieces together,” and the application process served as a great team-building exercise for the staff, Moore shares. ”In fact, I wish we had earned the designation earlier, and I’m so happy we did.” Ford Center may not be manufacturing cars anymore, but it’s definitely still firing on all cylinders.