Five years after proposing it, Twin Cities developer McGough Companies is getting set to pull the trigger on a new luxury hotel as part of its 50-acre Bloomington Central Station mixed-use development site near the Mall of America.

McGough this month is seeking official city approvals for the hotel’s development plans after city officials lined up $1.2 million in Metropolitan Council and Hennepin County grants to help build out streets, sewers and landscaping at the site west of 34th Avenue and north of E. Old Shakopee Road.

The developer has teamed up Plano, Texas-based hotel operator Aimbridge Hospitality on an eight-story, $68 million facility featuring 303 rooms, meeting space and a restaurant located only steps from the Hiawatha Line light-rail transit line’s Bloomington Central Station stop. The new project comes only weeks after the debut of a 13-story, 500-room Radisson Blu luxury hotel adjacent to the mall, with yet another hotel planned as part of the MOA’s long-awaited second phase.

Eden Prairie-based hotel consultant Ted Leines said he believes a Central Station hotel will be a winner in Bloomington, a market that is seeing solid room pricing and occupancy rates.

“The market there has been very, very strong, and these hotels now going in are at the higher end of the scale,” he said. “I think that being right on the light-rail line, the Central Station is an excellent location. I always thought a hotel would do very well there.”

The Bloomington Central Station proposal is set to appear on the April 25 Bloomington Planning Commission agenda.

A hotel has always been part of the vision of Central Station since its master plan was first laid out in 2004. McGough completed the 263-unit Reflections condominium towers there in 2006 after also renovating the nearby HealthPartners headquarters as part of its first phase.

The developer initially floated specific plans for a hotel to the city in 2008, but the financial crisis and resulting economic downturn derailed further efforts.

McGough Executive Vice President Brad Wood didn’t return a call for comment about the hotel, but lead project manager Mark Fabel told the city’s Port Authority in October the developer had raised enough equity and debt financing to proceed with the effort.

He said then the company continued to believe in the overall project and is committed to the original plan after signing a contract with an unnamed hotel chain to work exclusively with McGough and Aimbridge on building a “high-end international flag hotel.”

Renderings drawn up by project architect Elness Swenson Graham of Minneapolis and submitted to the city show an L-shaped, eight-story building with a one-story meeting space and a restaurant inside the curve.

Three different colors of precast concrete panels were shown on the upper levels, and conic panels with masonry insets were slated for the entry-level base of the hotel.

Fabel in October also indicated “two large groups” were interested in expanding or moving offices to Bloomington Central Station and that McGough, after not pursuing more housing during the downturn, intended to take advantage of a now-booming multifamily market to spark new development.

Schane Rudlang, administrator of the Bloomington Port Authority, said the city is encouraged by the new interest at Central Station after the years of inactivity.

“In the last year and a half we’ve been working a lot with McGough, so we’re happy to see it come before the planning commission,” he said. “They intend to break ground on the hotel this year.”

Rudlang said rumors about potential big office users and residential expansion at Central Station have been persistent in recent months.

“From the city’s perspective, we would not be surprised if they came in with a housing project or an office project, but who exactly the users are, we don’t know,” he said.


Don Jacobson is a freelance writer in St. Paul.