Plans for a $400 million mixed-use development proposed for the eastern flank of downtown Minneapolis won needed approvals Tuesday night from the city’s Planning Commission, and its developer now must get the City Council to agree to its financing plan.
Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos. was granted a conditional-use permit and its site plan was approved for its Downtown East development after a public hearing at City Hall.
“We’re pleased,” said Rick Collins, Ryan’s vice president of development. “We have a few things to work out, but this is a victory for us.”
The next step in the project involves getting City Council approval for its financing, a matter that is expected to be considered in coming weeks.
Plans for the first phase call for two 17-story office towers spanning 1.5 million square feet, 203 apartments, retail and commercial space, a 1,625-stall parking garage and a public park that will span close to two city blocks in the shadow of the new $975 million Vikings stadium.
Financial giant Wells Fargo & Co. is interested in moving about 5,000 of its employees to the office portion of the project, but hasn’t officially signed on yet.
The five-block stretch is now occupied by buildings and surface parking lots owned by the Star Tribune. Ryan hopes to finalize a deal to buy the land from the media company by year’s end.
Tuesday’s hearing on the Downtown East project lasted nearly two hours and was far more detailed that previous public reviews. The commission’s approval for the conditional-use permit, which is needed before building permits are issued, came with a list of conditions ranging from the type of soil to be used in the park (organic) to the design of the skyway spanning 5th Avenue S. The votes were unanimous, with one member, Lauren Huynh, abstaining.
One area of contention appeared to be flat rooftop signs bearing the Wells Fargo logo for the office towers, which were originally listed as prohibited in the commission’s agenda.
Brent Hanson, vice president of corporate real estate for Wells Fargo, said, “we plan to invest over $300 million in this deal with the reasonable expectation that we would be allowed this type of sign.”
Commission member Gary Schiff noted the rooftop signs are “advertising viewable from a blimp, which is what this is all about.” The issue of the rooftop signs, which would be highly visible during TV broadcasts of Vikings games, will likely be debated in the future.