The Skyway's the Limit

The Skyway's the Limit

As architects struggle to find work, a good place to turn has been the “green” market, especially adaptive re-use (“weatherizing,” as the president likes to call it). Well, here’s an extreme case: On Friday, Curbed noticed a proposal by Minneapolis firm City Desk Studio to transform a skyway into, among other things, a lakeside retreat. Better yet, it was being offered on Craigslist. For $79,500. Our jaws firmly dropped, we decided to call the firm up to find out more.

Partner Bob Ganser answered in his polite, Midwestern way (sadly sans a Fargo accent) and admitted the firm was shocked by the response. “It’s been viral, to say the least,” he said. Perhaps the only thing more impressive than the proposal itself is the fact that the firm had posted it on and off on Craigslist all year, and it just happened to explode this time around. “There was one small story in a weekly financial paper here,” Ganser said. “And then it just caught fire within a week.”

All the better, given that all the flood of interest has generated dozens of responses, about half of which Ganser said were real, serious offers. The story’s even made as far as the UPI. “It’s the News of the Weird, but we’ll take it,” Ganser said. “It is pretty wild.”

The firm, made up of Ganser and two fellow Golden Gophers, first heard about the bridge sale through an RFQ listserv run by their alma mater. When they placed their blind bid, it turned out no one else had, so the skyway was theirs. They attached wheels and moved it a matter of blocks to land currently leased from the city. (Some prospective buyers are far-flung, and transport has proven the greatest impediment to those deals, Ganser said.)

Once the firm had the skyway, Ganser said they struggled to decide what to do with it. Minnesota being the land of 10,000 lakes, they eventually settled upon a lake house. “When we first heard about it, we though it would be some piece of junk,” Ganser said. “But it turned out to be a beautiful piece of engineering. We thought it could be our own Glass House.” It’s not that much of a stretch, either, given that the span’s designer, “father of skyways” Ed Baker, worked with Philip Johnson.

He said the firm did realize they would need partners to complete the project, so they devised a time-share with a dozen slots at $100,000 a pop. They even put together a sales procure [.PDF]. When the partners canvased friends and family, there was some interest, but never a critical mass, so they turned it over to Craigslist, where the most recent ad has caused such a commotion.

While the firm proposed such uses as a wine bar and an “inhabitable billboard,” Ganser said those now interested in the project have mostly hued towards cabins and artist studios, as well as people seeking home additions, though Ganser believes that would a far more difficult undertaking than a stand-alone building.

A number of local municipalities have also expressed interest. And, for better or worse, a number of architects who are themselves in need of a skyway for one of their own projects have called about buying it.

“We would certainly like to see it transformed into some other use,” Ganser said. “In a perfect world, we’d be the architects, too, but above all else, we want to see it get some use.” As for moving the skyway, Ganser said he hopes it stays local, given that Minneapolis is the birthplace and, arguably, capitol of these architectural appendages.

“In a way, it’s a special object,” Ganser said. “It has a special character. It’s not just being reused. Especially in this area, it’s place defining. It’s almost mythical.”