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You go, grill: KG/LE’s SkyBarn patio featured in Wall Street Journal

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It’s not every day that you wind up in the Wall Street Journal (well, unless your name is Warren Buffett).

But we received that honor last Wednesday when a winter-grilling feature ran on the front page of the WSJ’s Personal Journal section.

The story included quotes from KG founder Doug Burgum on why people venture out in below-freezing temperatures to barbecue. Even better, it featured multiple photos of the rooftop patio of the SkyBarn, our recently completed showcase property at 300 Broadway.

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Scott Amundson Photography

The whole experience has been pretty exciting for both Kilbourne Group and Land Elements, the landscape-architecture firm that shares office space with us and also spearheaded the patio design.

All about the space

Project manager Brian Reinarts designed the 793-square-foot patio with flexibility in mind. The area is more like an outdoor room, which can be used for everything from small family gatherings to larger parties. The deck features a custom-designed firepit bordered by sleek outdoor settees, a modern dining set and a full outdoor kitchen.

The kitchen boasts ultra-durable granite countertops, a hybrid charcoal/gas grill, a refrigerator, hood, sink and dual-burner cooktop. All are nestled within “The Shed,” a structure built of recycled barn wood by architect Chris Hawley to jibe with the SkyBarn’s “urban-prairie” aesthetic.

Much like the SkyBarn’s interior, the rooftop melds modern finishes — like raw steel — with beautifully worn ones, like the red barn wood.

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This isn’t the first rooftop setting that Reinarts has designed. (He also worked on the Sky Prairie space atop the Hotel Donaldson.) While other KG/LE-designed rooftops often have an eco-friendly focus, the No. 1 purpose of the SkyBarn space is to capitalize on the popular appeal of rooftop venues. “This is truly an entertainment space being placed on what would have been a generally unusable space,” Reinarts says.

Even so, the rooftop features several environmentally-friendly features, including plantings of native-grass cultivars, a herb garden and custom-designed privacy screens made of recycled glass.

How it happened

So how did one rooftop spot in land-locked North Dakota snag the attention of editors at a major financial-news publication?

As is often the case, it all stemmed from connections.

Some time ago, we were contacted by the marketing folks at Kalamazoo, who manufactured the SkyBarn’s outdoor appliances. “They’re like the Rolls-Royce of grills,” Reinarts says of the Chicago-based company. The Kalamazooans wanted to know if it was OK to use some of our SkyBarn marketing photos when pitching stories to the media. Naturally, we were all for it. (Forget guerilla marketing. That’s griller marketing!)

A few months later, Kalamazoo was contacted by a WSJ reporter who hoped to do a story on avid wintertime grillers. The company’s marketing types thought of the images of the SkyBarn, which had practically been built for a photo shoot. They sent pictures, which we hear the WSJ editors loved. The Journal also happened to have a freelance photographer, the talented Dan Koeck, who lives right in Fargo.

In just one weekend, the Land Elements and Kilbourne Group teams rallied to spruce up the deck, invite dinner guests and plan a menu. And, as you’ll see in the photos that follow, the setting was as tasty as the food.

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It was less than 20 degrees that day, but we couldn’t get the thermometer to cooperate!

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This was seriously the best grilled food many of us have had in a long time. These appetizers — asparagus and pepper-jack cheese wrapped in proscuittio, disappeared as quickly as Doug could grill them.

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The WSJ didn’t run this photo, in which the ever-vigilant Max stole a tasty kebab and tried to swallow it whole!

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LE owner/KG general manager Mike Allmendinger (the curly-tops are his!) takes advantage of the firepit on a brisk night.

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Someone forgot to buy graham crackers, so we had to “settle” for homemade cookies on the s’mores instead! Everyone loved them. (Notice Max, who is watching the marshmallows with the concentration of a master diamond cutter. I hope he enjoyed his dessert course!)

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