Nearly a year after first proposed, one of the biggest rental projects in the city cleared a critical hurdle this week when it received unanimous approval Monday from the Minneapolis Planning Commission.

The $100 million-plus development is a joint venture between a pair of developers with deep local roots: Doran Cos. and CSM Corp.

The project includes 372 rentals in a 26-story tower that will be surrounded at its base by a low-rise building with retail and apartments.

It will also include 400 parking spaces and more than 3,175 square feet of retail space on a full city block in a historic district on the border of northeast and southeast Minneapolis near the Mississippi River

“We are excited about this partnership, which has included significant input from the community and city staff, and which we believe will add to the vitality of this dynamic neighborhood along the Mississippi River,” said Doran Cos. founder Kelly Doran.

The project is being called the Expo apartments because the site — now a surface parking lot — is across the street from an iconic exhibition hall that was demolished several decades ago.

Both developers have extensive experience in the area.

The CSM headquarters is on the downtown side of the river in the Mill District, and Doran has developed hundreds of rentals in the area, including the 338-unit Mill&Main apartments, which are just a couple blocks from the Expo site.

“We are excited to develop, build and manage additional property here for the long-term,” Doran said.

The team acquired the 2.54-acre site in the spring of 2017.

The acquisition included an adjacent block that is home to the General Mills research building and a parking lot, which are not part of the current development proposal.

The initial proposal was met with some concern because its height and density clashed with the St. Anthony Falls Historic District planning guidelines, which limit the height of new buildings to eight stories.

The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission withheld its support for the project.

But after the developers made several revisions, including making the tower more slender, the Planning Commission reconsidered.

Doran said he expects to break ground this summer and for construction to take two years. Rents haven’t been set yet, but 10 units will be income-restricted.

Jim Buchta