The demolition of the Star Tribune building in downtown Minneapolis moved a bit closer to reality Monday morning. The matter will now move to the full City Council at this Friday's meeting.
The Minneapolis Zoning & Planning Committee voted to grant an appeal filed by developer Ryan Cos., which wants to demolish the 94-year-old building on Portland Av. to make way for a city park, part of its proposed $400 million mixed-use development near the new Vikings stadium. The five-block area is owned by the Star Tribune.
Minneapolis-based Ryan's request for a demolition permit was denied by the city's Heritage Preservation Commission last month.
Rick Collins, Ryan's vice president of development, said Monday the Star Tribune building cannot be saved in an economically feasible manner as an office building or perhaps a hotel. The layout of the building, which has been enlarged and altered significantly over the years, poses significant challenges for redevelopment, he said.
Ryan has proposed a development of two office towers (reportedly for Wells Fargo), retail, up to 400 residential units, a parking ramp and the aforementioned park for the land on the city's eastern flank.
Michael Klingensmith, publisher and CEO of the Star Tribune, told the committee that the building is less than half occupied and is "functionally obsolete" for a modern media company. The Star Tribune plans to move to new (and leased) quarters in the downtown business district by the first half of 2015.
But Linda Mack, a Minneapolis resident and former Star Tribune reporter who serves on the Heritage Preservation Commission, noted there are few examples of 1940s architecture remaining in downtown Minneapolis. The Strib's core building "is a pretty sound example of Art Moderne" architecture, she said.
She disputed city staff research that indicated the Star Tribune building does not reflect the historic nature of the area, which was largely a milling district. "It's not an oddity," she said of the structure. "It defined the whole downtown east area and represented newspapers in this city for 70 years."
But Tom Fisher, dean of the University of Minnesota's architecture school, said he supported demolition of the building, largely because it will make way for a much-needed city park. Inside the Star Tribune building "there's nothing left of historic significance," he said.
The one dissenting vote on the committee was cast by Cam Gordon, who said said demolition of the building is a "significant and painful decision," that required more study to determine the structure's historic significance.
Janet Moore covers commercial real estate for the Star Tribune.