Mpls To Seek Pitches For Key Downtown Property

The downtown Minneapolis site known as the Nicollet Hotel property is in the thick of new development.

The City of Minneapolis plans to put out a call for development ideas on the old Nicollet Hotel block in downtown Minneapolis later this year.

The city has owned the full block site at the corner of Hennepin Avenue and Washington Avenue since 1993, but redevelopment of the 1.7 acre site at 30 Third Street South has proven challenging.

Jeremy Hanson Willis, executive director of the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) department, told Twin Cities Business that the city is hoping to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for the site in late spring or early summer.

“It’s obviously one of the most important blocks downtown and really the entire city,” Hanson Willis said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to think about: What might that block be?”

The Nicollet Hotel site is kitty corner from the new 222 Hennepin project, which includes 286 luxury apartments and a Whole Foods grocery store. It’s also across the street from a site where developer Jim Stanton of Coon Rapids-based Shamrock Development is pitching the Eclipse, which calls for two towers with 360 condominium units.

The City of Minneapolis recently reported that 2013 was a record-breaking year for new construction. The value of building permits issued in the city topped $1.2 billion in 2013, largely driven by the boom to build new rental apartments. Minneapolis issued permits to build 3,552 residential units last year.

History of the Nicollet Hotel Property

For years, the Nicollet Hotel property has been used as a surface parking lot and bus layover site. The site is still known as the Nicollet Hotel block, even though the hotel on the site was demolished in 1991. The city issued an RFP on the site in 2005, but drew no responses.

The City of Minneapolis originally acquired the site with grant funds from the Federal Transit Administration that required a transit facility be incorporated into any development. Over the last two decades, that has proven to be a stumbling block to attracting redevelopment of the site.

But last year, the city hammered out a deal – approved by the FTA – which moved the transit facility requirement to the privately owned Gateway Ramp at 400 Third Street South in downtown Minneapolis, a few blocks to the east.

Hanson Willis said that before the city issues an RFP for the Nicollet Hotel site, city planners are studying other components that could be incorporated into future redevelopment. For example, the city is currently studying plans for the Nicollet-Central streetcar line.

Hanson Willis also noted that the city is part of the RiverFirst Initiative and that there’s also a desire for some green space on the site to help better connect the Nicollet Mall to the Mississippi River.

“We need to study the market potential, and the green space potential, and the streetcar potential,” Hanson Willis said. “We need to have a sense of what’s the greatest path for success for the block . . . there are some unique situations here.”

Other Nearby Properties

Minneapolis may also put out a call for proposals on another city-owned site at 800 Washington Avenue South, a vacant site that’s not far of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium and the large Downtown East redevelopment planned by Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies. A previous plan for apartments on that parcel did not pan out.

“We are closely monitoring when we want to put that back on the market. A lot has happened in that area in the last several months,” Hanson Willis said of the site at 800 Washington Avenue South.

Meanwhile on Tuesday morning, Chicago-based InterPark LLC announced that it was marketing another downtown site, a surface parking lot at 401 Hennepin Avenue, for redevelopment. The site, which is roughly 25,000 square feet, is a block away from the Nicollet Hotel block. InterPark has tapped Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle to market the property.

Brent Robertson, vice president of the Minneapolis office of Jones Lang LaSalle, said that the site could draw multifamily, hotel, or office development.

“The timing is right. We feel that this is going it be a very attractive site,” Robertson said. “This could be the next big project in downtown Minneapolis.”

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