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Financial services firm, Securian Financial Group, has been a prominent presence in downtown St. Paul since the 1880s.The firm is the largest private-sector employer downtown, and owns more than 1 million square feet of commercial space there.

Recently, the company decided to completely rehab the aging streetscape outside its building at 400 Robert St. N. The largely concrete streetscape now incorporates hardy vegetation, better-defined public and private easements and a design that links the area to the newer Securian building at 401 Robert St. N.

More than 4,000 square feet of new grassy areas were added to soften the streetscape and reduce downtown's heat island effect. Trees were replaced with hardier species, and new environmentally friendly curbside lighting blends better with the firm's 401 building. New planters and patterns in the sidewalk were installed to better define public and private areas.

However, Securian says the "real beauty" may lie beneath the new streetscape with improved water filtration and stormwater runoff systems. "These features also filter contaminants out of storm runoff, helping improve ground water quality and keep the Mississippi clean," said Julio Fesser, second vice president of Facility Services for the firm.

Securian said the aesthetics of the project were designed to promote the city's plan for attractive and pedestrian-friendly corridors along 5th and 6th Streets, better linking Xcel Energy Center to the Lowertown area.

Securian declined to say how much it paid on the improvements.

Janet Moore covers commercial real estate for the Star Tribune.