Just Listed brings you the latest news and information from the Twin Cities-area commercial and residential real estate market and beyond from veteran reporters Jim Buchta and Kristen Leigh Painter.

Posts about Architecture

Update: Apartments WILL replace polkas at Nye's Polonaise Room

Posted by: Jim Buchta Updated: December 2, 2014 - 7:43 PM
Star Tribune photo by Tom Wallace

Star Tribune photo by Tom Wallace

Update: Longtime developer, Schafer Richardson, is joining forces with the owners of the restaurant to build apartments. Here's a link to the latest details.

As hipsters and pensioners alike mourn the 2015 closing of Nye's Polonaise Room in Nordeast Minneapolis, speculation is blazing about the fate of the iconic buildings, which are perched along East Hennepin just a block from the Mississippi River. 

The owners of the restaurant, which is actually four patched-together buildings of various ages, aren't talking specifically about their plans for the site, but various sources say there have been very, very preliminary discussions with at least one well-known and unnamed Minneapolis developer.

One thing is clear: Unless a buyer plans to continue running it as a restaurant, it's very likely the buildings will be bought by a developer and replaced with a modern high-rise. Though the buildings are situated in the heart of the St. Anthony Falls Historic District, which includes the historic milling districts on the east and west banks of the river, the buildings themselves don't have the kind of historic status that would automatically prevent them from being scraped. Here's a link to the St. Anthony Falls Historic District design guidelines, which governs development in the area. In fact, a recent update to the Nicollet Island East Bank Neighborhood Association small area plan calls for more high-density, pedestrian friendly development, especially along East Hennepin, which is slowly becoming the bustling commercial district it once was.

P. Victor Grambsch, President of the Nicollet Island-East Bank Neighborhood Association, said the group would not oppose demolition of the buildings and is in full support of a high-rise tower.

" We think it's unfortunate that Nye's is going, but no one is going  to the barricades to preserve it," he said "This will be a relatively expensive site and they’ll [the buyers] will want to build something substantial and we're all in favor of that."

Doesn't matter whether it's rental apartments, condos or offices, he said, the group is more concerned that the mixed-use project that will bring more shops, restaurants and housing to the neighborhood. And the base of the building is more important than the shape of the tower because the No. 1 design priority is making the neighborhood pedestrian friendly. Grambsch said that a slender tower that sits atop a more slender two- or three-story podium is a likely scenario. There’s no height restriction in the area, which already has at least two residential towers with nearly 30 floors.

The site isn't without its challenges. Nye's shares the block with the Our Lady of Lourdes Church - a historic limestone church with a distinct steeple that's long been a neighborhood icon. Preserving and enhancing views of the church will be one of the design goals.

"We don’t see a fundamental conflict between a substantial, tall building and Lourdes Church," Grambsch said. "But they’re [the architects] are going to have get out their design chops because this will pose some interesting design challenges...we would like to have something that’s a visibly better piece of archtitecture than what’s there now."

If the buildings are demolished, it's likely the HPC will require the developer to memorialize the building in some way, with either a plaque or an architectural element that provides a symbolic reminder of the history of the building.

The Northeast side of the river is already in the midst of considerable development. Lennar Multifamily has an option to buy a once-contiminated site where it plans to build a mixed-use development that would eventually have two high-rise towers. And Alatus has an option to redevelop the Wasburn-McReavy Funeral Chapel site, where it has proposed building a 40-story apartment or condominium tower. Both projects have received support of neighborhood groups.


North Minneapolis developer seeks approval for mixed-use project

Posted by: Kristen Leigh Painter Updated: November 26, 2014 - 6:02 PM
Broadway Flats design renderings

Broadway Flats design renderings

The City of Minneapolis Planning Commission will consider on Monday a mixed-use development project in North Minneapolis that could bring 103 apartment units and ground-level retail space to the neighborhood. 

Dean Rose lost his third-generation family liquor store at West Broadway and Penn Av. in 2011 when a tornado tore through the intersection and is using that as an opportunity to take the block in a new direction.

“I think what happened with the tornado was a turning point for us,” Rose said. 
“There had been concepts we had discussed in the past, and so we started thinking 'What else can we do besides putting our business back together?'"

Rose said he started toying with the idea of a mixed-use project on the highly trafficed site eight years ago, but the housing crisis of 2007 -- which hit North Minneapolis hard -- thwarted those plans. 

Now, he said, “We are leveraging our insurance proceeds into rebuilding a project that is much bigger than what we lost.”

Private-dollar investments have been scare in the neighborhood, which is why Rose says his project is unique.

Affordable yet chic housing is a primary focal point of the project, called Broadway Flats. Rose said the neighborhood produces young talent who often go on to work downtown, but can't find housing suitable to their wishes back in their neighborhood.

He hopes to change that. 

“It was imperative to me that we provide a level of housing of the same caliber in the rest of the city and in the suburbs," he said. 

The complex will offer studio, 1- and 2-bedroom units for between $730-1,100/month, he estimates. 

“The amenitites that come with that affordable piece, underground parking, community room, bike lockers, bike storage and fitness facility,” Rose said. 

He hopes that the proposed bus rapid transit line will create energy and activity in the area that will draw young tenants and customers to the retail, especially if Broadway Flats receives the transit hub designation. 

If approved by the city, the site will offer 19,000 square feet of retail with his store occupying 9,000 square feet.

“My focus is certainly to see us go after a local restauranteur. We don’t have dry cleaner services on the Northside. I think that would be a wonderful fit," Rose said. "It’s designed so that we have flexibility to create spaces to meet the demand of tenants.”

There are several ideas he has but ultimately he wants to add a new service or type of retailer that's not currently offered in the neighborhood. 

ESG Architects designed the building and Rose hopes to break ground in February. 

Redecorate without leaving your computer

Posted by: Jim Buchta Updated: November 24, 2014 - 12:08 PM

If you read my story in the Sunday paper about Justin Spoelstra and the software application he developed that enables home builders and their customers to try out more than 30,000 custom paint colors, flooring choices and other decorating options, here's a look at how that software was used to offer a customer four variations on a model home built by Creek Hill Custom Homes. The company, by the way, is called Preferred Interactive.

New housing for Old Home building in St. Paul

Posted by: Jim Buchta Updated: November 21, 2014 - 2:10 PM

An Art Deco building with a stone carving of a young girl and boy—Mistress Polly Plump and Master Henry Husky - that once housed the Minnesota Milk Co. and Old Home Foods is being converted into 60 income-restricted apartments that will be known as Western U Plaza. 

The $16.9 million project is being co-developed by Sand Companies and the Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation (ASANDC) with help from the U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC), the community development subsidiary of U.S. Bank, which invested equity raised from federal historic and low-income housing tax credits. The deal includes $10.5 million in tax credit financing.

The 101-year-old building, which is at 370 W. University Ave. next to the Western Avenue Light Rail Station is in the Summit University neighborhood, will become 18 apartments. A new three-story building next door will have 42 units, including studio, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments. Seven of the apartments will be rented to formerly homeless individuals, who will receive support services such as employment assistance and health care, and the rest will be leased to people who earn less than 60 percent of the area median income. Monthly rents will range from $619 to $1,018.

“Western U Plaza will help fill a need for high-quality, affordable housing that also gives residents easy access to the new Western Avenue Station to reach jobs and services by light rail,” Vihar Sheth, senior vice president of USBCDC, said in a statement. “We hope Western U Plaza will give a little additional push to the redevelopment that is already underway in the Summit University neighborhood.”

Construction will be complete in September 2015. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1903 and updated in 1932.

Rochester to seek construction firm for Mayo Civic Center Expansion

Posted by: Kristen Leigh Painter Updated: November 20, 2014 - 5:24 PM

Mayo Civic Center Expansion Rendering

The City of Rochester is seeking a construction firm to build its $79-million Mayo Civic Center expansion.

This is just latest development in a recent flurry of infrastructure investment to the city's downtown area. Rochester plans to issue a request for proposals Friday, with hopes of beginning construction during the first quarter next year. 

The civic center will comprise more than 200,000-square-feet of event space, nearly doubling the size, once the planned expansion is complete.

A Grand Ballroom, 14 breakout rooms, renovation to the existing Presentation Hall and a widening of the Rochester Civic Theater are some of the additions. 

“The new space is specifically designed to meet the needs of today’s meetings and conventions, and to bring larger events to Rochester,” said Brad Jones, director of the Rochester Convention & Visitors Bureau, in a news release. 

Meanwhile, 85 miles west, Mankato Civic Center is also undergoing a $30-million expansion.


Twin Cities apartment sales nearing a record

Posted by: Jim Buchta Updated: November 20, 2014 - 10:40 AM

Trammell Crow execs, Johnny Carlson and Grady Hamilton, at Junction Flats the day after the deal closed.

Trammell Crow execs, Johnny Carlson and Grady Hamilton, at Junction Flats the day after the deal closed.

Twin Cities apartment buildings are trading nearly as fast as developers can build them. Last week we reported that Trammell Crow sold the Junction Flats in the North Loop neighborhood to Greystar, a national development company that recently built the sprawling Elan apartments in the Uptown neighborhood in South Minneapolis.

The big news this week is that the Opus Group sold the barely used 253-unit Nic on Fifth building in downtown Minneapolis for what's rumored to be a record price for a Twin Cities apartment building.

What's next? The 222 Hennepin development in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, including 286 luxury apartments and a 40,000 square-foot Whole Foods store, hit the market this week and is expected to close within the next few months. (Here’s a link to the listing.)

This flurry of deals represents an unusual moment for the Twin Cities apartment market, which is benefitting from steady declines in the homeownership rate and a better-than-average jobs recovery. National investors can't resist. Apartment building sales (based on volume) this year could set a record depending on when the 222 deal closes. Stay tuned for more coverage on this topic.


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