The University of Minnesota has selected M.A. Mortenson to build its new Athletics Village, which will offer upgraded facilities for basketball and football, as well as academic resources for student-athletes.
The Golden Valley-based development company is no stranger to sports complexes. Mortenson is currently erecting the new Vikings Stadium and ranks as the second-largest sports builder in the U.S. It's also currently constructing the new Atlanta Braves ballpark.
Other notable sports projects include local landmarks like Target Field, Xcel Energy Center and TCF Bank Stadium. The list is long nationally as well, including Coors Field in Denver (home of the Colorado Rockies), Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis (home of the Rams), the multiuse Sprint Center in Kansas City and many more.
Mortenson has been a front-runner in the competitively bid process from the beginning. The company conducted a cost analysis for the $150 million project and has a long history of doing business with the U.
Construction companies interested in the project had only three weeks to submit their proposals. Interestingly, earlier this month Mortenson appointed a new director of project development for its Sports Group, Logan Gerken -- a former Gopher baseball player and U of M graduate in architecture.
Ultimately, the U cites Mortenson's extensive track record with sports facilities and work plan as the reasons for its selection.
"From the first day we shared plans for this project, we have been working against a very aggressive timeline to get these badly needly facilities built," said Norwood Teague, director of athletics at the U, in a statement. "Today's announcement is the latest point of progress as wel move toward providing our student-athletes with modern facilities that will help us fulfill our promise to help them achieve greatness in the classroom, in competition and later in life."
The U hopes to break ground no later than September and with a targeted completion date of July 2017.
**An earlier version of this story inaccurately referred to Gerken as a former Gophers basketball player. He played baseball at the U of M.
The City of Minneapolis will seek the public's help in designing the new Downtown East Commons at an open forum Tuesday evening.
The 4.2-acre park is meant to be a fixture of the Downtown East redevelopment project by Ryan Cos. The developer will do basic soil and seed prep before turning the two blocks over to the city and its San Francisco-based landscape architect, Hargreaves Associates.
Bounded by Park Avenue, 4th and 5th Streets and a proposed building that abuts 5th Av. S., the public space will have to balance a variety of interests.
"Hargreaves and the city’s job is to come up with a design for the Commons that is for almost everybody in terms of all the uses. And at the same time it has to be a clear, legible and compelling design that people get attached to and that it attracts the funds we need to sustain it in the future,” said Peter Brown, a consultant to the city.
Minneapolis residents, workers and visitors can offer their input at Mill City Museum Tuesday, Feb. 24 from 6-7:30 p.m. And for those who prefer a more private response, the Hargreaves team has set up an online survey to gather feedback.
The park is currently a blank slate. Hargreaves hopes to capture and reflect Minnesota culture in its design.
"We really think this is a great opportunity for placemaking," said Mary Margaret Jones, senior principal at Hargreaves. "And, yes, we will be zoned. We have Ryan’s residential building at one end and the stadium at the other end. We can already imagine a park that moves from passive to more active. We are diving in. We are getting more information. We are understanding more of the special event needs. We are understanding the public.”
Jones has ties to Minneapolis. Her husband lived in the city when they first started dating.
"I would come to visit and we would ride bikes along the river and across the Stone Arch Bridge, so I know the river well," she said.
The challenge though for her and her team will be to satiate an abundance of needs.
The Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), Metro Transit and Hennepin County are all stakeholders, in addition to the general public that wants leisure, recreational and artistic uses.
An agreement between the Vikings and the city gives the football franchise access rights to areas of the park on game days, as well as a number of other days. City officials are quick to point out that even on event days, the Commons will be open to the public while VIP tents, beer gardens or other ticketed space may be used exclusively by the Vikings or MFSA. Here's the agreement breakdown:
Western block: Up to 20 event days total
- 10 Vikings game days
- 10 Vikings other-event days
Eastern block: Up to 60 event days total, plus time that may be needed for setup and takedown
- 10 Vikings game days. Portions of the eastern block can be used the day before and after Vikings game days for the specific purpose of setting up and taking down tents.
- 10 Vikings other-event days
- 40 event days for the MSFA
To balance these diverse uses, “there will probably be some combination of soft and hard landscapes and probably some features, but we don’t know what those will be yet," Brown said. "It's going to be a blank sheet of paper. We want the public to tell us everything they think it's going to take to make it great. Hargreaves will then go away for 3-5 weeks and come back in early April with some big-idea sketches. Then we talk about those in public setting. Then, we narrow those down."
This is the first of three public meetings scheduled before the design is finalized in May.
The goal is to have the final park vision operational by the end of 2017, but an interim park will be completed in 2016 ahead of opening day at the new stadium.
"Our goal is to make some improvements on Ryan's grass and seek in order to make a good interim park," Brown said.
In order to realize this dream, Greening Downtown Minneapolis (GDM) -- a new nonprofit organization formed by the Minneapolis Downtown Council -- has to raise $18 million, which is Hargreaves' cost estimate.
Ryan Cos. has a vested interest in the park's success since its five-block residential, retail and office development will directly benefit from a vibrant park. The company kicked off the fundraising campaign by pledging $200,000, but GDM has a long ways to go.
"The land is owned by the city, but we have to raise all $18 million," Brown said. "We hope that there are some interested institutions and organizations that are going to see the benefit in supporting that work.”
Minneapolis city officials will consider plans from Sherman Associates, that include some telling tweaks, next week for a Downtown East block called Thresher Square, which is adjacent to the Vikings stadium development.
The mixed-use project calls for office, residential, hotel and retail on the same block as Old Spaghetti factory, between S. 3rd Street, Washington, Park and Chicago Avenues.
But unlike its orginal plans, the latest iteration, posted to the city's website Thursday morning, has nixed plans for a skyway connection to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority ramp across S. 3rd Street.
“The timing of the two projects didn't work out,” said Tony Kuechle, project manager at Sherman. "But residents can just walk across the street and enter the skyway."
The new documents make reference to a grocery store on the corner of Washington and Chicago Avenues. Speculation of a Trader Joe's has increased, but no official deal has yet been confirmed.
“We needed to clarify grocer because it kicks in certain requirments for parking,” Kuechle said.
The site will combine historical reuse and new construction. Thresher Square is a historic brick-and-timber building facing S. 3rd Street that was converted into offices several years ago. However, the economic downturn hit its vacancy rates hard and Sherman is planning to turn it into a hotel with some office remaining.
Since the building is a locally designated historic landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it may require review by the Heritage Preservation Commission, depending on the structural modifications.
The Old Spaghetti Factory will remain as is with the restaurant and office uses.
All of the new construction sits on the southeast half of the plot. The seven-story, L-shaped building will total 185,000 square feet. In addition to the grocery store anchoring the retail, there will be a smaller commercial space facing Washington. The upper floors will be composed of 181 apartment units and amenity space.
The Star Tribune has previously reported that Sherman hopes to make the apartments "affordable luxury," renting for about $2 per square foot, which is below the going rate at many of the other nearby luxury apartment buildings recently built.
Sherman plans to build two levels of underground parking with 275 stalls and is asking for a variance to include 80 grade-level parking spaces for the grocery store customers on the block's interior rather than the maximum 59.
New renderings for Thresher Square, looking northwest, submitted to the City of Minneapolis. Source: Sherman Associates and ESG Architects.
Here's a timeline of the park's history:
(Slideshow compiled by staff writer Eric Roper)
The City of Minneapolis has narrowed the pool to three landscape architecture firms competing to design the 4.2-acre public park next to the new Vikings Stadium.
A review team will interview the remaining candidates vying for the high-profile green project called The Commons, formerly known as The Yard.
The three teams are:
The city received 14 proposals from both local and national firms by the Oct. 15 deadline.
Representatives from the various stakeholders in the Downtown East redevelopment will compose the review team. That group will then make a recommendation by mid-November for which firm they believe should be awarded the two-block project. Minneapolis City Council is expected to approve a landscape architect by the end of the year.
Now that Metro Transit's Green Line is in service, and two others in the works (Southwest and Bottineau), an ample amount of thought has been devoted to craft ways for rail users and pedestrians to safely use the Downtown East light-rail stop, particularly during Vikings games.
On Monday, the Metro Transit officials briefed the Met Council's Transportation Committee on a proposed pedestrian bridge over Chicago Av. S. that would link the new $1 billion Vikings stadium to a plaza near the intersection of Park Av. S. and Fourth St. In short, officials hope to avoid a dangerous scrum of fans on the rail tracks before and after games.
Metro Transit will issue requests-for-proposals for the project by mid-September. The transit agency will likely devote $6 millon from its coffers for the project (this figure could be offset by federal grants), with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (which oversees stadium construction) ponying up $2 million, and the rest coming from bonds issues by the Met Council.
Last year, about 6,700 Vikings fans (about 10 percent) took light-rail transit to games. The two Vikings games played at TCF Stadium at the University of Minnesota saw 20 percent of attendees taking the new Green Line, which connects the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Once all four light-rail lines are completed, that figure could jump to 40 percent of game-goers, Metro Transit spokesman Drew Kerr said.