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.

Developer proposing 80-story tower in Minneapolis provides details of team

Posted by: Kristen Leigh Painter under Architecture Updated: December 17, 2014 - 2:28 PM

A new rendering courtesy of Duval Development, looking southwest down Hennepin Ave.

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.

Twin Cities negative equity rate now 60 percent below peak

Posted by: Jim Buchta under Debt Updated: December 17, 2014 - 11:16 AM

Here's a little nugget of good news for the Twin Cities housing market: The number of homeowners in the metro who have mortgage that exceeds the value of their house continues to fall, and is below the national average. Zillow says that in the Twin Cities metro, 107,785 homeowners – 15.6 percent of all homeowners with a mortgage – were underwater during the third quarter. That's down from 21.1 percent a year ago and 60.1 percent below the peak. Nationwide, the negative equity rate fell from 16.9 percent from 31.4 percent at the peak.

Here's what Zillow's chief economist, Stan Humphries, had to say about the situation: “Looking at negative equity helps us understand so many of the currently out-of-whack dynamics in the housing market, including low inventory, rapid home value appreciation and weak sales volumes. None of these problems will be solved overnight, in large part because negative equity will likely be a part of the housing market for years, and easily into the next decade in some hard-hit areas. But we’re moving in the right direction, and time will heal all wounds.”

Nationwide, owners of less-expensive homes were more likely to be underwater than owners of more expensive homes. In Detroit, for example, 49.2 percent of homes valued in the bottom price tier were underwater, while just 7.6 percent of the area’s highest-priced homes were upside down. And in Chicago, 41.4 percent of bottom-tier homes were in negative equity, compared to 23.9 percent of middle-tier homes and 10.4 percent of top-tier homes. Nationwide, 27.4 percent of the least-expensive homes were in negative equity in the third quarter, compared with 15.7 percent of middle-tier homes and 9.3 percent of top-tier homes.

North Loop condo building one step closer to groundbreaking

Posted by: Jim Buchta under Architecture Updated: December 16, 2014 - 1:57 PM

Renderings of the proposed 602 Residences by Tushie Montgomery Architects

Renderings of the proposed 602 Residences by Tushie Montgomery Architects

Renderings of the proposed 602 Residences by Tushie Montgomery Architects

Here's the latest rendition of the 602 Residences condo building.

Here's the latest rendition of the 602 Residences condo building.

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.

These are the buildings that are slated for demolition.

These are the buildings that are slated for demolition.


Mortenson proposal for Nicollet block includes 31-story apartment tower

Posted by: Kristen Leigh Painter under Architecture Updated: December 16, 2014 - 10:36 AM

Rendering of Mortenson Development's 31-story tower being proposed on the Nicollet Hotel Block

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:

  • A 31-story residential tower with 273 apartment units
  • Seven-story hotel with 171 guestrooms
  • Five-story office structure with 60,000 square feet of office and ground floor retail space
  • 15,000 square-foot gateway plaza; including a water feature, art space, and capable of accommodating a winter ice skating rink
  • Supported by underground and structured parking

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.

Rendering of Mortenson Development's public plaza being proposed on the Nicollet Hotel Block

Rendering of Mortenson Development's public plaza being proposed on the Nicollet Hotel Block

“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.

Four developers bid for Nicollet Hotel Block Project in downtown Mpls.

Posted by: Kristen Leigh Painter under Buying Updated: December 12, 2014 - 2:47 PM


Duval Development's 80-story tower proposal would stand 32 stories taller than the IDS Center


Four local companies submitted proposals to develop a key parcel in downtown Minneapolis known as the Nicollet Hotel Block. 

The City of Minneapolis closed its request for proposals period Thursday night for  30 Third Street South. The 1.7-acre city block is currently a surface parking lot and will serve as a crucial interchange for many of the major downtown revitalization projects currently in the works.

Doran Development, Duval Development, Mortenson and United Properties all responded with concept designs. 

Renderings began to surface Friday afternoon. The city asked for an iconic building and it looks like it make get it. Duval is proposing an 80-story tower that would stand 23 floors and 100 feet above the IDS Center, which is currently the tallest building in the state.

(A proposed 900-foot tower. Photo courtesy of Duval Development)

The block sits at the northern-most point of the Nicollet Mall that is about to undergo a massive facelift. The city has high hopes for this odd-shaped plot that is bound by 3rd Street S, Washington Av., Hennepin Av. and Nicollet Mall.

The City's requirements for the block include:

  • an iconic, high-quality, designed new construction structure(s) of at least 20 active floors
  • a mix of commercial, retail, residential, office and hotel uses
  • active street-level retail
  • integrated green space for the public



Sitting between the city's commercial core, the Mississippi River and the booming North Loop neighborhood, plans for the plot must include streetcar-ready infrastructure. More than a half a dozen developers expressed interest in the site initially at a pre-proposal meeting, but the complexity of the design and the plethora of other commercial development projects currently underway across the Twin Cities Metro may have deterred some from pursuing the project. 

The city says it wants the small parcel to include a mix of uses, such as office, hotel, residential and retail.


This part of downtown, called The Gateway District, has undergone a development boom over the last two years. Nearby luxury apartment towers like the 4Marq, Nic on Fifth and the Soo Line are beginning to reconnect the River to the Mall.

                                                                                                                                                                                                 (Photo courtesy of United Properties and architect LHB)    


Opus Development executives said in September they are planning to build two 30-story residential towers on the Ritz block, located off Nicollet Mall between 3rd and 4th Streets. City staff will review the proposals and conduct community outreach with the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association. City Council is expected to select one of the developers by April and sell the property by late summer 2015.             (Photo courtesy of BKV Group and Doran Development)        


Construction should begin early- to mid-2016.


The Nicollet Hotel at Christmas time in 1949. Star Tribune file photo.


Aerial view of the Nicollet Hotel Block. Photo courtesy of the City of Minneapolis

Cool Nov. for home sales moves Twin Cities closer to buyer's market

Posted by: Kristen Leigh Painter under Buying Updated: December 10, 2014 - 1:54 PM
A cool November for home sales brought the housing market in the Twin Cities one step closer to a buyer’s market -- at least for now.
Last month there were  3,213 home sales in the 13-county metro, a 17-percent decrease over last year, according to monthly data from Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors. With fewer foreclosures in the mix and a shortage of listings in some areas, the median price of those sales rose 5.1 percent to $205,000 compared to the same period last year.
“Buyers seem to be back in the driver’s seat this winter,” said Amy Jurek, a sales agent with
RE/MAX Advantage Plus. “They have a decent amount of properties to choose from with amazing interest rates.” 
Home sales in the Twin Cities all year have failed to keep pace with 2013 largely because there were fewer investors in the market. Distressed sales - foreclosures and short sales - represented just 13.4 percent of all closings last month compared with upwards of 20 to 40 percent at various times last year.
“November 2014 wasn’t a normal market,” said Jurek. “With more homes to choose from this fall and winter and less competitive offers, buyers have grown complacent with market.”

 In the second-to-last monthly report of 2014, the year-to-date metrics are down compared to 2013.

Nearly 46,000 home sales closed in the Twin Cities Metro from January-November this year -- 7.6 percent fewer than the same period in 2013.

But, balancing out the slower pace of sales, new listings were also down 12.8 percent year-over-year, staving off an inventory flood for now. 

The takeaway for buyers and sellers -- 

  • Buyers face higher prices but lower interest rates and more housing chices than a year ago.
  • Sellers receive higher sales prices but are up against more inventory competition in active listing areas.

“The Twin Cities housing market is clearly continuing the process of recovery. Sales prices are up but on fewer overall sales. Fewer distressed sales are certainly a welcome sign for homeowners and realtors alike,” said Michael Hunstad, president of the Saint Paul Area Association of Realtors, in a statement.


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters