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Biota Landscapes Plants New Roots in Mpls Industrial Building

After leasing a building for fourteen years, the owners of Biota Landscapes, an award-winning, Minneapolis-based residential and commercial landscape design-build firm, wanted to plant roots in their own building both for expanded, creative space and for long-term investment reasons.

Jim Saybolt, Principal Affiliate. ASLA, CLP and Steve Modrow, Principal ASLA founded Biota Landscapes with a mission to create innovative designs that invite interaction and inspire the imagination using the highest-quality plants, materials and construction techniques with a focus on sustainable design. Their goal: a property that allowed them to combine their mission with the opportunity to develop a creative and functional workspace for staff as well as a progressive showcase where clients could gain inspiration and enjoy their design process experience.

The Search for the Ideal Property 

Their initial search for a building was a little sporadic – visiting buildings when their time allowed between projects like designing the Urban Garden at left. Saybolt says, “We searched properties on our own as well as with two or three different real estate agents before meeting Marty Fisher of Premier Commercial Properties and deciding to commit seriously to finding a property. Interestingly, Marty was representing the seller of a building we were considering and he struck us as very professional and personable without being high pressure. Unlike some other agents, he didn’t pressure us to make a decision. He was very straightforward and his expertise in commercial real estate came through.”   

From Checklist to Closing and Everything In Between

With a mental list of specific criteria for a small industrial building, Modrow and Saybolt wanted a property with offices, space that could be converted to a design studio, a warehouse, and a large lot to allow them to add landscape elements that would become a showcase of what they do, but that would also enhance the property and community. They visited about twenty properties before finding their ideal building, a former machine shop in Minneapolis with 10,000 square feet.  

“This was our first experience buying a commercial property. We were very specific about what we wanted – we took time to search for and carefully select the property that fit our vision. Marty was very patient and extremely helpful throughout the entire process and especially during some challenging times for which Marty adds a second layer of value and expertise. Because we selected an industrial property, there were environmental due diligence steps required for financing. First, a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment was required to uncover the history of the property and later a Phase II assessment with vapor tests in both cold and warm weather, which were found to be below MPCA guidelines. These extra steps and requirements, although help protect us as owners, were sometimes challenging and delayed the closing, but Marty made it very easy through great communication and transparency at all times while explaining everything in detail. He helped us navigate the logistics of not only purchasing the building, but was instrumental in the site searches, environmental requirements which he has a deep understanding, financing, closing, and even with recommendations for quality contractors and vendors – he is very well connected. We asked him for a second opinion on a banker, a recommendation for a low voltage contractor and an electrician as well as a referral for a general contractor, which we ultimately chose to do the renovation.”

Saybolt offers a tip for other business owners who may be considering purchasing a property, “Work with an experienced real estate professional who doesn’t pressure you to make a deal. Get second opinions on financing and especially environmental assessments.” 

Keeping the Best & Improving the Rest

Renovations are underway that keep the best of the existing building’s bones while incorporating design elements and improving spaces that are as creative and thoughtful on the inside as they are on the outside. Biota is creating a work environment that is fun and beautiful to work in with outdoor spaces that envelop many of the components that Biota is known for.  

Plans for Innovative & Sustainable Features

  • Unique and Inspired Gathering Spaces
  • Creative Work and Design Spaces
  • Rain Garden
  • Storm Water Recapture Through Cisterns
  • Permeable Paving
  • Green Roof Systems
  • LED Outdoor Lighting
  • Deep Rooted Outdoor Plantings 

Giving Back

Biota owners and staff place high importance on giving back to their community. Their team engages in ongoing education and works with local community organizations sharing expertise, equipment and excitement to help create a better environment and better neighborhoods. Each year, they host an open house inviting clients, neighbors, and other guests into their studio. Guests get inspiration and enjoy a food truck, live music, introductions to annual giving-back initiatives plus receive pots of herbs as a special gift from Biota. 

More About Biota Landscapes

Based in Minneapolis, MN, Biota creates a sense of place through the use of unexpected materials – both organic and constructed. We strive to share our knowledge and foster an ongoing stewardship to create lasting enjoyment.

To see more of Biota Landscapes work and to learn about their services and expertise, visit their website:

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