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Developer considers condos, vertical parking system near new stadium ramp

Thin parcel on 4th Street tucked next to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority's parking ramp

Ryan Cos. is now considering building condos and an automated parking system, rarely seen in Middle America, on a previously contentious thin parcel abutting the Viking Stadium parking ramp.

Automated parking systems are vertical solutions for small spaces. The system relies on car elevators, lifts or conveyor belts to mechanically park vehicles in stalls stacked one top of one another.

The narrow strip of land where Ryan is considering using the concept was the source of an unexpected fight for development rights between the Minneapolis-based firm and the Minnesota Vikings last fall. The key site is located between Park and Chicago avenues just across 4th Street from the light-rail stop and kitty-corner from the new Vikings Stadium.

Ryan's original plan to build a 25-story hotel and residential tower on the site fell through partly because of the location's parking problem. The site's notably small footprint makes underground parking impossible.

Now, the developer is crunching the numbers on its options, including either for-sale or for-rent units and a vertical parking structure, emphasizing just how challenging the site is for development.

Automated parking is a design solution adopted in densely populated regions across the globe and starting to pop up in U.S. coastal cities, like New York and Los Angeles.

“The site is thin and that’s why it isn’t straightforward,” said Tony Barranco, Ryan's vice president of development. "You can't throw density up without parking."

But, he added, "We are looking at all options, including automated parking. But I will also say those are really darn expensive.”

Ryan is trying to strike the financial balance of tall vs. low, parking vs. none, while also navigating political expectations on the site.

The developer had originally hoped to use some of the 1,600 stalls in the parking ramp -- which Ryan is building and Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) owns -- for a complicated 25-story hotel and residential tower. 

Once the MSFA and Vikings rejected Ryan's request to share some of the parking stalls, the developer's hotel deal fell through, ultimately leading to a drop in Ryan's purchase price offer from $5.6 million to $3 million. The Vikings then offered the city $8 million for the land and development rights, which the Minneapolis City Council ultimately rejected to avoid competitively bidding the parcel and further delaying development.

“Right or wrong, we now know the ramp is meant to accommodate the needs of the stadium. That is water under the bridge. We wish it would’ve had a little more flexibility, but we are now working under these constraints,” Barranco said.

As a result, Ryan -- the developer of the five-block Downtown East project that includes the two 17-story Wells Fargo towers, rental apartments, retail and the recently announced Radisson Red hotel -- must meet certain city deadlines.

“While I am optimistic about this condo deal, we can still take the land back," said Jacob Frey, Minneapolis City Councilman for the neighborhood.  

One deadline passed last week. Ryan had until May 15 to notify the city if it intended to build an extra level of parking on top of the MSFA ramp. Ryan chose not to. 

Now, Dec. 31 is the developer's next key deadline. Ryan has until the end of the year to submit a plan that meets the city's approval. If the city did take back development rights, it would have to reimburse Ryan up to $1.6 million for money the company has already invested into the parking ramp and site. So far, Ryan has spent $1.8 million on the block.

“All of these steps have just taken so long because they are between the city, the Authority, and sometimes the team," Barranco said.  “We are working on it, but we are trying to balance it with other things.”

Thin parcel on 4th Street kitty-corner from Vikings new stadium where Ryan Cos. is considering condos and automated parking system

Sherman, Mortenson and newcomer Saturday Properties bid for Guthrie Liner Parcel

The undeveloped Guthrie Liner parcel.

The undeveloped Guthrie Liner parcel.

Three Twin Cities developers are vying for the chance to build on the Guthrie Liner Parcel, a thin strip of land facing Washington Avenue in the bustling east downtown neighborhood. 

M.A. Mortenson Co., Sherman Associates and Saturday Properties LLC -- a new company established by Brent Rogers, formerly of Greco Development -- all responded to the City of Minneapolis' request for proposals, which were due Wednesday. The three, recognizing the possibility of the site that sits just one block from the Guthrie Theatre and Mill Ruins Park, will now compete to win the favor of city officials. 

All three are proposing brand-new hotel concepts, and a mix of office or retail on the 24,419-square-foot site.

Mortenson's 9-story hotel, office and retail proposal for 800 Washington Ave. S.Mortenson, a national developer with its headquarters in Golden Valley, has put together a robust development team for its 9-story build, including a 188-room Hyatt Centric hotel. The brand new hotel line is Hyatt's latest lifestyle concept that is more playful, and likely geared toward a younger client base, than its traditional brands.

Notably, Mortenson's plan includes 15,000 square feet of office and conference space for the American Academy of Neurology, which is headquartered next door (and that Mortenson built in 2012). Mortenson's arrangement with AAN includes up to 15,000 additional square feet of expansion space should AAN need it.

The team includes ESG Architects, Hyatt Centric, Marcus Hotels & Resorts, Culinaire and Shea, Inc. -- restaurant designers for Spoon and Stable, Union, Brasserie Zentral and Butcher & The Boar.

Sherman is a prolific developer in the neighborhood with another project currently being planned just kitty-corner from 800 Washington at the Thresher Square site. The firm has also already begun site prep for the next phase of its housing project, called Encore, on S. 2nd Street across from Gold Medal Park

“We like the site given its location to a lot of the other things that we are developing in the neighborhood," said Tony Kuechle, senior vice president of development for Sherman. "It allows us to bring a great restaurant and corporate venue for visitors and families who live in the neighborhood."

Sherman Associate's 9-story hotel, office and retail proposal for 800 Washington Av. S.

Sherman Associate's 9-story hotel, office and retail proposal for 800 Washington Av. S.

The company's plans for the 800 Washington Av. S. site include a 9-story, 140-room hotel and a 25,000-square-foot Pinstripes -- a bowling, bocce ball, restaurant and bar concept. It's hospitality partner is Kimpton Hotel, which are upper-scale, full-service boutique hotels. The Grand Hotel Minneapolis is a Kimpton property. Sherman's proposal includes more than 15,700 square feet of office space that would serve as the new headquarters for Sherman Associates, currently located across Washington Avenue in the Old Spaghetti Factory building.

“We would consider moving our office headquarters, but we know there are many neighborhood tenants who are looking for space, including American Academy of Neurology, and we could offer that to lease that floor,” Kuechle said.

Brent Rogers, founder of Saturday Properties, has partnered with architect Minneapolis-based BKV Group, Aimbridge Hospitality and Hopkins-based Frana Companies. Saturday's proposal includes a six-story, 166-room, limited service hotel. The new brand is from Westin and is called Element. 

Saturday Properties' proposal for a hotel, retail development on 800 Washington Av. S.

Saturday Properties' proposal for a hotel, retail development on 800 Washington Av. S.

"It is focused on wellness and green construction," Rogers said. "There would also be 10,500 square feet of ground-level retail. We envision two restaurants and a neighborhood service retailer." 

The City of Minneapolis expects to select a developer by August. The city owns another liner parcel one block northwest of the site, 205 Park Avenue, and plans to release a request for proposals on that site after choosing the 800 Washington winner. The two developers who are not selected may submit their plans again for that site.