Ryan's Collins leaves Downtown East for the Arizona sun

  • Article by: JANET MOORE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 23, 2014 - 4:31 PM

Ryan Cos.’ Rick Collins, known for tackling complex projects in the Twin Cities, is taking a position in Phoenix.

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Rick Collins of Ryan Cos., right, shared the stage with then-Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak for a Downtown East-related news conference last year.

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com,

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Rick Collins presided over the renovation of some of Minneapolis’ best-known buildings: the Foshay Tower, Midtown Exchange and Grain Belt brewhouse.

But just as the veteran real estate developer started in on a $400 million face-lift to downtown’s eastern edge, which includes the five former Star Tribune blocks near the new Vikings stadium, Ryan Cos. promoted him to a new job in Phoenix.

The move to the Arizona capital in the dead of summer, where July temperatures average 105 degrees, has been “going well,” Collins said this past week. “I’m jumping into the middle of it.”

Meanwhile, his successor in Minneapolis, Tony Barranco, is encountering some snags with the ambitious Downtown East mixed-use project. “I’m stepping into some pretty big shoes,” said Barranco, Ryan’s vice president of development. “But we’re making progress.”

A plan to erect the first Radisson Red luxury hotel atop a parking ramp in the complex fell apart in July “because the numbers didn’t work,” Barranco said.

Plans also called for about 200 apartments above the ramp, and that still appears to be the case. However, the exact number of units has not been determined, Barranco said.

Ryan is in the process of redesigning the ramp portion of the project, with a new agreement expected to be struck perhaps by the end of September, according to city officials.

The rest of the development calls for two 18-story office towers for Wells Fargo & Co., 190 additional apartments, restaurant and retail space, a parking ramp and a public park that spans nearly two blocks.

Future ownership and financing of the park, which involves the demolition of the Star Tribune building, is unclear.

The Minneapolis Park Board recently voted to not get involved in the park, also known as the Yard, leaving City Hall to figure out the lingering ownership issues. There’s talk of forming a conservancy organization to manage the park, an idea supported by Wells Fargo, according to Peggy Gunn, a spokeswoman for the financial giant.

Ryan is slated to provide basic improvements to the park, such as sod and sidewalks, before handing it over to the city in 2016.

Construction of the two Wells Fargo office towers is proceeding at a furious pace, with a move-in date set for late next year or early 2016, Gunn said.

The $1 billion Vikings stadium and Downtown East has seemingly spurred other developments in the long-dormant area, including a $100 million mixed-use project proposed by Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates. Plans call for 175 apartments, 30,000 square feet of retail, and underground parking on a block fronting Washington Avenue between Chicago and Park avenues. The block is anchored by the historic Thresher Square building on S. 3rd Street, which is slated to become a hotel.

Meanwhile, since his move to Phoenix, Collins has learned to patiently answer in the affirmative when someone asks: “Is it a dry heat?”

The Phoenix promotion presents some challenges for Collins, a 57-year-old native of Green Bay, Wis.

While the southwestern economy is improving, “it is still relatively weaker than before the recession,” he said. “The greater-Phoenix metro area has not regained all the jobs lost in the recession, unlike Minneapolis-St. Paul and the country as a whole.”

Known for tackling complex real estate projects like Downtown East, Collins was named as one of the Star Tribune’s 10 Minnesota Executives To Watch in 2014.

Minneapolis-based Ryan has developed a number of high-profile projects in the Southwest, including a biomedical manufacturing campus for W.L. Gore & Associates, the company best known for Gore-Tex products, in the Sonoran foothills of Phoenix. Another project was a $155 million office building in Phoenix for the U.S. General Services Administration, which will be anchored by the FBI’s office.

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