Opus pulls out of plans for the Nicollet

  • Article by: SUSAN FEYDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 15, 2008 - 1:32 PM

The Minnetonka developer's departure raises questions about the future of what once was to be downtown Minneapolis' tallest residential building.

Another development partner has bowed out of the Nicollet, a high-rise project proposed for a prime site at 10th Street and the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.

Minnetonka-based Opus Northwest recently ended its partnership to build the project along with Twin Cities developers Pratt Ordway Properties and Hunt Associates.

Opus Senior Vice President Tim Murnane and Len Pratt said Wednesday that the parting was amicable. Pratt said he and Hunt are in discussions with other developers that could replace Opus.

The Nicollet has undergone a series of partner and design changes since it was proposed more than three years ago, when the condo market still was hot, as the tallest residential tower to be built in downtown.

Pratt and Hunt took sole control of the development in 2005 after buying out the 50 percent interest of Twin Cities architect Jeff McDonell and home builder Ron Johnson. In 2006 Pratt and Hunt recruited Houston-based Hines Interests, a major player in the downtown market. Hines bowed out about a year ago and was replaced by Opus.

The Nicollet's original plan for a tower with about 350 condominiums was proposed in 2004 before the condo market began to cool.

By 2006, the project had not presold enough units to secure construction financing, and the developers had begun to consider adding a hotel, which would have reduced the number of condo units.

In 2006, Pratt and Hunt also changed sales teams from Financial Freedom Realty to Edina Realty.

Pratt and Hunt sought Opus in part because of its experience in developing multi-unit housing downtown, including the 327-unit Grant Park condominiums at 500 Grant St. and the 253-unit Carlyle, at 100 3rd Av. S. When it came on board, Opus considered making the Nicollet a mixed-use project that could include condos and hotel but also retail and office space.

Pratt said condo units no longer are being marketed. He said he still believes firm plans for the project will emerge in the next 12 months.

Murnane said Opus withdrew from the Nicollet in order to focus on developing other downtown sites it owns or controls.

Those include the old Powers department store site on 5th Street just off Nicollet, the former Minnegasco site at 7th Street and 3rd Avenue, and the former Sheraton-Ritz site at 4th Street and Nicollet.

Opus has no firm plans for those sites yet but is considering mixed-use developments that would include office space, Murnane said.

Opus' other downtown office projects include the Ameriprise Financial Center and 225 S. 6th St.

Susan Feyder • 612-673-1723

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