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Universities will compete on ideas for St. Paul riverfront

Photo by Leila Navidi

Several Twin Cities universities will brainstorm ideas on how to best utilize undeveloped land on the riverfront in downtown St. Paul.

As part of its 15th annual University Challenge, the Minnesota chapter of NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, will have three finalists from six universities present their concepts for the site as part of an April 19 program.

“We look forward to the results of these student projects and believe that their concepts will provide value as touchpoints in the conversations we are currently having with potential developers for the site,” Ramsey County spokesman John Siqveland said, in an e-mail.

Ramsey County spent $17 million to demolish the former West Publishing Co. buildings and the Ramsey County jail that used to stand on the nearly five acres of land at the intersection of Wabasha Street and Kellogg Boulevard that overlooks the Mississippi River.

Phoenix-based Cardon Development Group was the only developer to submit ideas to Ramsey County when it sought a partner to remake the site. Cardon wanted to build a $225 million complex with an upscale hotel, 300-unit housing, offices, retail and parking, but the plan fell through.

The county continues to meet with developers to hear their perceptions of the development potential in the site, Siqveland said. The County Board hopes to select a preferred developer in the third quarter of this year.

AC Hotel Minneapolis West End opens in St. Louis Park

Photo by Laura Rae

The newly built, 126-room AC Hotel Minneapolis West End officially opened this week in St. Louis Park.

It has the same European feel as other AC Hotels that have recently opened in the Twin Cities with a kitchen with a Berkel meat slicer and perfumed musk that is sprayed throughout the hotel. But there are also some unique features that make the hotel stand out.

“This hotel is not meant to be a home away from home,” said Katie Rosenberg, brand ambassador for

AC Hotel Minneapolis West End, in a statement. “Instead, it’s meant to be an escape from normal life, specifically designed for the modern business traveler. We want our guests to feel inspired to be their very best every time they step inside the building.”

Located on Wayzata Boulevard close to the Interstate 394 and Hwy. 100 interchange, the AC Hotel Minneapolis West End has views of the downtown Minneapolis skyline from some of the rooms as well as from its sixth-floor, rooftop bar and lounge Reveal.

Reveal is heated and open to the public. As part of an AC Exclusive Social Club (ACE), members at the West End hotel will get to take advantage of special food/drink and hotel discounts such as free drink hours. The membership costs $200 a year.

The hotel has several other luxurious features such as a self-serve station of lavender satchels that guests can put under their pillow (purported to help with sleep) and a wall mounted corkscrew for wine. The hotel has more than 100,000 square feet of common space (meeting spaces, fitness center etc.).

Construction of the six-story hotel began in November 2016. The hotel is managed by employee-owned TPI Hospitality, which is based in Willmar, Minn. The West End opening follows several other AC Hotels being built in the area including the AC Hotel Bloomington Mall of America, which opened about a year ago, and the AC Hotel in downtown Minneapolis that opened in 2016.

Some of the inaugural guests to the AC Hotel Minneapolis West End who check in Tuesday won’t be international business travelers but instead high school hockey players from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who are in town for the USA Youth Hockey National Championships. The high school was recently devastated by a mass shooting last month that left 17 people dead. TPI Hospitality, which also has a presence in Florida, offered the team a free stay at the hotel.