Rarely is a prominent office building demolished to create green space, but that’s exactly what is planned for a portion of the Shutterfly campus, formerly Lifetouch, along Interstate Highway 494 in Eden Prairie.
Shutterfly is proposing to demolish the western-most building of its two-building campus north of I-494, along Viking Drive, and leave the area open and green for its employees to enjoy. It’s an idea that requires city approval, and was unanimously endorsed Monday, Nov. 8, by the Eden Prairie Planning Commission. The proposal now heads to the city council.
Architect Terry Helland, speaking on behalf of Shutterfly, said the campus was built in 1997 by Lifetouch, which was purchased by Shutterfly in 2018. Lifetouch was a leader in school photography, and much of the building proposed to be demolished contains empty studio space.
“That use of space doesn’t really work for Shutterfly,” said Helland, who added that the building has been mostly unused the past couple of years. Shutterfly’s presence is mostly in the digital arena as a big online retailer and manufacturer of personalized photography and related products and services.
City staff also noted that the targeted building – which is linked to Shutterfly’s eastern building with a small, connecting structure that serves as the campus entrance – cannot easily be leased to another company because it has only a small amount of parking built to reflect its unique, low-scale use.
Helland said the building changes solidify Shutterfly’s presence in Eden Prairie for at least the next 12 years, preserving 500 to 700 local jobs.
The demolition would reduce Shutterfly’s campus from 258,850 square feet to 142,165 square feet. The piece that now connects the two buildings will remain. It will be remodeled to better suit the remaining building and new green space.
The requested change was a pretty easy call for the planning commission Monday. “I see this as nothing but an improvement to the existing site,” said Commissioner William Gooding.
But Commissioner Carole Mette, acknowledging the positives of new green space, said, “It’s also tough to be ‘undeveloping’ a site” and demolishing a building less than 25 years old.
Even in this uneven economy, she added, “This is a bit of an odd deal.”