The public relations campaign for the Dayton's Project got off to a somewhat rocky start, after plans for the downtown Minneapolis renovation leaked online weeks before the official announcement.
Representatives for the Nicollet Mall effort wouldn't confirm if the makeover of the 12-story building, formerly a Macy's, would match the floor plans and aritst renderings that popped up in early October.
The release of marketing materials later that month confirmed the leak was authentic: As envisioned by owners Telos Group (an offshoot of United Properties) and its design firm, Gensler Associates, the Daytons' Project will be the new home to a sidewalk patio on Nicollet Mall, a food hall, retail businesses, a rooftop hangout joint, a gym, upscale upper-level living units... and a whole bunch of white people.
This last part was not made explicit in any of the promotional write-ups about Dayton's Project, but soon became apparent to one keen viewer, who took his or her observations to the photo-sharing website Imgur. The artist renderings are accompanied by some lively critical commentary which is considerably more colorful than the people depicted in the photos.
"Let's play 'Spot the People of Color!'" writes the poster, who says they looked with some curiosity at the design announcement for Dayton's, when they "began to notice...not so much something, but something missing. Whatever could it be?!"
Spoiler alert: It's non-white people. In two photos depicting the ground-level floor of the Dayton's Project, some two dozen people are prominently featured, looking young, attractive, financially successful, and hip. They are all white.
"Now there's a man who can rock clamdiggers and sandals with a braided belt. And we know he's a hit with the ladies because he shops at Daytons. That parted hair. Kennedy Administration PERFECTION. Hey chiselchest!!! See any people of color around? Anyone?
How about you, Beardsley McCardigan? Sitting there all alone and vexed. I'd be mad too; The art director photoshopped your hot Latino boyfriend out of existence. What a jerk!!!!"
The patio scene appears, at first, to be just as bleached, until you take a very close look.
No, not at the middle of the picture, where (white) people are sitting down. Look to the left. Further left. Almost out of frame. There!
"And she's WAAAAAY out to the left allll the way in the background.....on the outside of Dayton's....looking in," the uploader writes, adding, sarcastically: "Just when I thought that all the people in this fair city were being underrepresented."
The post notes that statistically, these images look like an effective white-washing of the City of Minneapolis, which, as of 2010, was 63 percent white, 19 percent black, and more than 10 percent Latino.
A perusal of renderings on the Dayton's Project website also depict what appears to be an entirely white street scene outside the building; even the tiny figures in the skyway all look pretty pale:
An office space, where white people work:
A gym, where white people can stay in shape:
And a middle-level floor, where, in a sort of food court area, white people can lounge comfortably -- HEY WAIT, LOOK, A BLACK GUY!
OK, nobody freak out. Remain calm, whites! Do not move too quickly. Try to speak in a neutral tone. Remember: Black people are just as afraid of you as you are of them. Usually more.
As it turns out, if the future in these artist renderings comes true, this man of color will not be alone at the Dayton's Project.
Tunheim, the public relations firm representing the group behind the renovation, provided a few images which do, indeed, feature non-white people in occupying central positions.
In a statement on behalf of the property owners, Tunheim's Cailin Rogers said:
"The renderings are drawn to represent the visions for the building itself. We expect that this building will be a vibrant and inclusive space — which is why the developers have planned for public space from the lower level up to the skyway.
One of Minneapolis’ greatest strengths is its diversity. The vision for this project aims to rejuvenate this historic space and make it the anchor of a thriving downtown. We look forward to a space that creates new memories for generations of all Minnesotans."
That is: people of color's money counts just as much as white folks', and they're welcome to come spend it here. Any black people who do make the trip should be on the lookout that black lady outside, wearing the loud jacket and the shorts. Looks like she could use some help finding the door.
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