Minneapolis condo king embraces downtown's east side

  • Article by: JIM BUCHTA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 29, 2014 - 12:21 AM

Developer Jim Stanton is preparing a condo project in Downtown East, near the Vikings stadium under construction.

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A rendering of 15-story condo project that developer Jim Stanton would like to build in downtown Minneapolis.

Photo: Oertel Architects,

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Jim Stanton, one of the most prolific housing developers in the city, says he’s ready to build his second postrecession condominium project — and he’s heading to the east side of downtown again.

Stanton recently bought a quarter of a city block in the Elliot Park neighborhood, near the Downtown East development and new Vikings stadium that are both under construction. Those projects weren’t the only catalysts for his, Stanton said.

“It didn’t play into my decision, but it won’t hurt,” he said Thursday. “Downtown East has finally come alive.”

His preliminary plans call for a tower of approximately 15 floors and up to 110 units. The site, at the corner of 8th Street and Portland Avenue S., is a weed-strewn lot next to the Sexton Lofts, a warehouse building that was converted to living spaces during the worst of the housing crash.

Stanton hopes to start construction this fall but has yet to submit plans to city and neighborhood groups.

His proposal comes in the midst of a record building boom in Minneapolis. By the end of the year, nearly $2 billion in building permits are expected to be issued, including permits for a $1 billion-plus Vikings stadium and the Downtown East project, which is a pair of office towers for Wells Fargo, apartments and a new park. Kraus-Anderson is planning an 80,000-square-foot, four-story headquarters, also in the east part of downtown.

Rare condominium project

Meanwhile, across the city, thousands of rental apartments are under construction, mostly in the North Loop, Central Business District and Uptown neighborhoods.

But new housing, and especially for-sale housing, has been relatively rare in the Elliot Park area, where more than 85 percent of the households are renters.

“I know the neighborhood would welcome” a condominium project, said Lynn Regnier, executive director of Elliot Park Neighborhood Inc.

Stanton’s would be only the third condominium project in downtown since the 2008 recession and the first near Elliot Park since then. Stanton earlier this year opened Stonebridge Lofts, also on the east side of downtown near the Guthrie Theater.

Today, the Minneapolis condo market is shaped by a lack of new supply and an increase in demand. There are now fewer than 200 condominiums on the market in downtown, and just across the northeast side of the Mississippi River, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors. At the current sales pace, that’s enough supply to last just 2.4 months.

“Demand is off the charts,” said Cindy Froid, who has a real estate office just a few blocks away from the site of Stanton’s new project. “There’s just not enough inventory to go around.”

Historically, Elliot Park hasn’t been popular with housing developers. It’s several blocks from the river and the central business district, so the key to attracting buyers is keeping the prices competitive, agents say.

At the beginning of the housing boom, a local development team built a high-rise luxury condo tower called Grant Park that sold quickly. Later, a Chicago developer built another high-rise condo building called Skyscape, which didn’t sell as well.

“If anyone can do it, Jim can,” said Joe Grunnet, broker with the Downtown Resource Group, which marketed the final phase of the Sexton Lofts. “This project will be unique compared to his past successful projects that are in A-plus locations. Jim has a formula that he has perfected over the past 10 years, it will be fun to see what he does with more of a high-rise condo building.”

An early iteration of Stanton’s plans by Oertel Architects, which designed several of his previous condo buildings, calls for below-grade parking that would be available via a property agreement with some Sexton owners. The main entrance to the building would be along Portland and there would be a lobby, exercise room and some retail space at street level.

The next few floors would be clad with metal panels that would conceal resident parking, and the remainder of the post-tension concrete building is rendered in red brick and glass. There would be about 10 units on each floor of the L-shaped building with balconies in each. Outdoor amenities include a green roof deck with a fire pit on the north corner of the parking garage.

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