Dayton's Project brings back classic downtown Minneapolis holiday experience

Santa Bear Mountain will be apart of the Dayton's Project displays. (FOX 9)

A Minneapolis tradition is making a comeback this winter. The 12-story building on Nicollet Mall that was home to the Dayton's department store for decades is bringing a market and holiday display back.

"Many Minnesotans have fond memories of shopping here when it was Dayton's," said Erin Fitzgerald with the Dayton's Project. "Now we get a chance to see what the Dayton's Project is all about... We're so ready. We're so excited about this project."

For decades, Dayton's was the heart of the shopping district in downtown Minneapolis. Now retail is returning to the building that used to house the iconic department chain's flagship store.

"It's been revitalized," added Fitzgerald. "It's been revamped. This is an entirely new Dayton's."

On Monday, we got a sneak peek of The Dayton's Project that will officially open to the public later this week. It includes the Departments at Dayton's, a maker's market of 33 local small businesses, offering everything from Dayton's branded clothing to a Native American gallery featuring items made by Indigenous artists in the former J.B. Hudson Jeweler's space.

"We really see the Dayton's Project as being a vital part of revitalizing downtown Minneapolis so to have these retailers down here as workers come back to the office and to be able to have that going into the holidays," said Fitzgerald. "It's such a great time for them to be here."

For generations of Minnesotans, Dayton's was synonymous with holiday shopping with their Christmas window displays drawing huge crowds to see the fairytale fantasies and winter wonderlands.

"This has been great fun and it's hilarious to see all the bears again," said Dayton's Project Creative Visual Program Director Kent Hensley. "I mean you forget, there were so many."

The Dayton's Project will also have several holiday window displays, like Santa Bear Mountain and others, featuring restored animatronic figurines from a 1967 Dickens show in the 8th floor auditorium. In the end, bringing back memories and making new ones could be the best Christmas present of all this holiday season.

"I think it’s very exciting to see how they have stepped up to make a statement and an invitation to the city to come and play," said Hensley. "And I think that's what these windows represent. It's an invitation to come downtown."

The Departments at Dayton's will open to the public on Thursday.