The former Post Office building, site of the Custom House redevelopment project. Source: State Review Board

The City of St. Paul issued $38.4 million in building permits this week to Exeter Realty Co. for the Custom House project in the former downtown Post Office building. 

It's a significant step, marking the transition from conceptual to tangible for the historic renovation project that will transform the Depression Era structure into a hotel and apartment complex. 

Last week, St. Paul-based Exeter announced it sold the portion of the property that will house a Hyatt Place hotel to Des Moines-based Nelson Construction and Development for $2.85 million. The two companies will work in tandem to gut and restore the key historic elements of the property. The plan includes a 149-room hotel and 202 market rate apartment units. 

The permits were issued to the project's general contractor, Frana Companies, a Hopkins-based construction firm with an impressive portfolio of historic rehab projects, including such notable properties as Else Warehouse and The Copham Residence in the North Loop, Soo Line Apartments in Minneapolis' central business district and Eitel Building City Apartments in Loring Park. 

The Star Tribune reported last week the total renovation costs are expected to top $100 million, With $25 million coming from historic tax credits. 

Ramsey County plans to demolish a string buildings, known as the West Publishing site, also on the Mississippi River bluffs in downtown St. Paul. Both projects seek to activate the riverfront, which many residents and civic leaders feel is the city's most underutilized asset.

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