The reaction to news of an 80-story tower in downtown Minneapolis was swift and strong. Just as the shock-and-awe of the proposal wore off Wednesday, the developer offered a glimpse into his team, which is the root of his confidence.
Duval Development was one of four local developers to submit project bids for the highly visible Nicollet Hotel Block, a city-owned parcel in Minneapolis' Gateway District.
Duval's ambitious proposal garnered intense public reaction as it would surpass Minnesota's tallest building, the IDS Center, by more than 100 feet. Critics say it will never happen for economic and market reasons while many urbanists argue it is an iconic design that would enhance the city's skyline and is therefore worth pursuing.
Alex Duval, head of the development company, has provided the credentials and roles of his design team in an effort to clear up misunderstandings, he said.
Perkins + Will is a global architecture and design firm and is the lead design architect on Duval's project, called Nicollet Gateway. Ralph Johnson, the firm's global director of design, personally designed the 80-story tower featured in the proposal.
The company has a staff of 1,600 people in 24 locations worldwide, but its local office is seven blocks from the proposed site at Nicollet and 10th Street.
“The historic Nicollet Hotel block provides a unique opportunity for a design that is both contemporary and timeless – a building that is responsive to its public presence along the Nicollet Mall and engages with the city by creating a new focal point with its slender, striking scale,” Johnson said, in a statement. “This building will be an integral part of the city and will activate the street scape. It will be set back from the Mall to provide an expansive green public plaza, and will include an indoor/outdoor atrium and ground floor pedestrian amenities. Our aim is to help bring new energy and stronger links between the downtown business core and the Mississippi River, drawing increased pedestrian activity that will enhance the rich sense of community that is so distinctive to Minneapolis.”
Thornton Thomasetti is the structural engineer on the project and has a portfolio full of super-tall buildings across the globe.
The New York-based firm designed the structure of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpar, the seventh-tallest buildings in the world at 1,483 feet, and were engineers of the complex systems of the Mall at the Burj Khalifa podium. Tomasetti is leading structural design of Kingdom Tower, currently under construction in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, which will overtake Burj Khalifa as the world’s tallest building when it is complete.
David Weihing is Tomasetti’s principal in charge of Nicollet Gateway Tower. While he has global experience on several of the firm's super-tall projects, he is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and was involved in the structural design of 50 South 6th St, an office building just a few blocks from the Nicollet site.
“Working on Nicollet Gateway Tower is kind of a homecoming for me personally, which is exciting, but more importantly, it is an example of the kind of catalytic projects Thornton Tomasetti is doing around the world," said David Weihing, in a statement. "We have seen how the creation of a high quality supertall building causes more buildings and investment to cluster around it in the cities where we are working.”
Cuningham Group is the project's landscape architect.The studio is led by David Motzenbecker, who was president of the City of Minneapolis Planning Commission, resigning in Jan. 2013. These experiences, Duval said, will help bridge policy and design.
“The Nicollet Gateway public realm is designed for health, beauty, recreation, and functional value," David Motzenbecker said. "Our team has designed a beautiful place that will support a diverse range of community activities year round in an environmentally sustainable manner.”
Of course, many super-tall buildings with a deep line-up of players never get built, and questions still linger about occupancy and financing of the project. But Duval said he will release that information when it is appropriate and in a way that does not undermine the integrity of the competition.
The other three well-established developers bidding on the project are Mortenson, Doran Development and United Properties -- all Twin Cities-based companies.
What's likely to be just the second new condo building in downtown Minneapolis is one step closer to becoming a reality. The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission recently gave the go-ahead to demo two buildings to make way for a new 8-story brick, stone, metal and glass condominium building that's being called 602 Residences. Both buildings were just a few decades old and are within the Minneapolis Warehouse Historic District and the St. Anthony Falls Historic District, but neither is considered a contributing structure. Those buildings, a one- and two-story building, are at 602 North 1st Street and 606 North 1st Street.
Gunsbury, of Solhem LLC, is working with T.E. Miller Development on the project, and said that he hopes to break ground in May or June. The duo has already developed several apartment buildings in the city, including Soltva and Solhavn in the North Loop. The project has received support from neighborhood groups, and would be just the second condominium building in downtown Minneapolis to break ground since the 2008 housing crash. Prices haven't been determined, but every unit will be on a corner and have outdoor balconies and terraces, private elevators.
Mortenson released more details Tuesday on its redevelopment proposal for the Nicollet Hotel Block -- a city-owned parcel in Minneapolis' Gateway District that received four lofty bids last week.
The Golden Valley-based company's plan includes:
The Star Tribune reported Friday that four local developers had submitted proposals for the block, currently owned by the City of Minneapolis and functioning as a surface parking lot. All of the proposals include streetcar-ready design and am emphasis on public art and park space. The city envisions this block serving as the keystone between a soon-to-be remodeled Nicollet Mall and the Mississippi River.
Minneapolis-based Doran Development is proposing a 30-story residential building and a six-story Graves Hotel. Bloomington-based United Properties wants to build a 36-story building with a Hilton hotel, 300 residential units, retail, restaurants and offices. And Minneapolis newcomer Duval Development is proposing an eyebrow-raising 80-story hotel, apartment and office tower.
“We embrace the City’s vision for an iconic design and sustainable urban space that connects the Gateway District and welcomes the community,” said Bob Solfelt, vice president and general manager of Mortenson Development, in a statement. “We have brought together an unparalleled project team that has a strong connection to Minneapolis and the downtown community. Our proposal is for a vibrant, financially-feasible project that will bridge neighborhoods and become a true landmark.”
Mortenson's team includes The Excelsior Group, Coen+Partners, ESG Architects and RSP Architects.
Renderings courtesy of Mortenson.
(Photo by Brandon Stengel of Farm Kids Studios.)
Skyscraping towers and luxury apartments grab headlines, but it's often historic renovations and community projects that grab the heart strings of developers.
Minneapolis-based Opus Group has helped Shattuck-St. Mary's School in Faribault restore an old building on its campus and expanding it into a functioning hospitality and event space.
“The Inn at Shattuck-St. Mary’s was an exciting challenge for Opus,” said Tim Callahan, senior project manager for Opus Design Build, in a statement. “It was an honor to participate in this project, recognizing the historical significance of the space."
The building, now known as The Inn at Shattuck-St. Mary's, was built in 1871. The storied building has served as a dormitory for raucous teenage boys, an infirmary that weathered a scarlet fever outbreak and, most recently, the site for a Halloween haunted house event.
Renovation of the building included adding about 10,000 square feet of new space to the two-story complex, with meeting and catering services on the ground floor and 12 guest suites upstairs.
The goal, Callahan said, was "to enhance existing structures, enabling those spaces to meet modern-day needs.”
L&H Station Development is moving through the city of Minneapolis approval process with its mixed-use project that could redefine the lightrail stop and intersection at Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue.
Hennepin County and its private-sector partner, L&H, provided a lengthy presentation Thursday, Dec. 4, to the Planning Commission Committee of the Whole, which responded favorably but raised several concerns that the development team can address before submitting its formal application in January.
The county agreed in September to purchase the 6.5-acre parcel from the Minneapolis School District and build a new $54.5-million human service center on the site. The Star Tribune reported:
J. Michael Noonan, manager of the county’s real estate division, said he expects the county to recoup through land sales the $9 million cost of acquiring the parcels. The remainder will be used to build a $30 million service center and $16 million in mostly underground parking.
Because the county will be the landowner, it has enlisted L&H, a joint venture between Roseville-based Launch Properties and Minneapolis-based BKV Group, to provide the expertise lacking within the government entity.
L&H has been trying for four years to get the project off the ground. The plan is to do it in four phases over the next 10 years. The county is only seeking approval for the first phase -- which they hope to break ground on in April -- but the city is taking the long view by considering the master plan in its entirety now.
If the current plans proceed with minimal changes, phase one would include a 100,000-square-foot office building that would be occupied entirely by the county, 8,000 square feet of retail space, a 6-story, 125-unit apartment building and small transit plaza to connect the Blue Line lightrail stop with the ground-level retail.
The final product would include 565 residential units, the 100,000-square-foot county office, 840 off-street parking stalls -- and the kicker: a public plaza and marketplace to house the farmers market and other community events.
While the development team has been meeting with the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization regularly, some urban designers hope to seem some changes in the plans. In a letter to Commissioner Peter McLaughlin in November, a citizen group cited concerns. Specifically, they noted that the west boundary of the development feeling too much like a "back door" entrance, that the market plaza may be isolated in the current configuration of thoroughfares, and also raised issue with the green-roofed parking garage not being at street level for the public to enjoy.
"When you look at the principles of what we are talking about, I think the overall site plan would require some pretty dramatic changes still," said Sam Newberg, a local urban design blogger and resident of Standish, the neighborhood just to the south. "We find that the surburban model that the county is coming in with hasn't been adjusted enough for the urban fabric."
Senior City Planner Becca Farrar voiced some hesitations in her memo to the Committee that was published before Tuesday's presentation, but she and other members agreed several of these had been addressed with the newly tweaked plans.
The Committee asked the architects and Noonan, who is the county representative, to build in assurances that the public can clearly tell they have access to the walkways being proposed through the private property portions, to ensure that the public plaza has a visual connection with Lake Street foot traffic and to work closely with the city in selecting simpler building materials.
Shopping for an energy efficient house? The NorthstarMLS (Multiple Listing Service), the local organization that runs the listing service for buyers and sellers, has started including a "green certification" check box on its online listings 2013, and there's now a new standard for those houses.
The Center for Energy and Environment (CEE), a local non-profit, and Coldwell Banker Burnet have listed the first "Energy Fit" house in the Twin Cities. That house (2626 Zenith Ave. N in Robbinsdale) was bought by CEE and completely retrofitted with a host of improvements aimed at reducing energy costs and making it more comfortable for occupants. Performance testing to make sure the changes were beneficial are part of the drill. The 1,774 square-foot house is on the market for $224,900.
Bruce Erickson, the Coldwell Banker Burnet agent who has the listing, said that homebuyers are increasingly concerned about how much they'll be spending on their utility bills, and he expects the designation to make these houses more marketable.
“Many homebuyers consider the cost of heating and cooling when buying a new house and this can impact the sale price of the home as well as the time spent on the market," said Erickson. "Having Energy Fit Homes on the MLS can not only help buyers in making their final purchasing decisions, it can also allow sellers to get recognition for improvements made to the home,” he said.
The Energy Fit Homes concept was launched by CEE in February, and more than 60 houses have been certified. The goal is to double that number by the end of the year. For more information on how to get your home certified, visit www.mnenergyfit.org or call 612.335.3483.