Financial services giant Wells Fargo & Co. is working with Ryan Cos. to explore development of land in downtown Minneapolis that is now owned by the Star Tribune, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations.

The four-block area near the Metrodome, currently home to the newspaper's headquarters, two empty buildings and several parking lots, has been eyed for development because of its proximity to the planned $975 million Vikings stadium and the busy Downtown East/Metrodome light-rail stop.

On Tuesday, Minneapolis-based Ryan confirmed that it has agreed to an exclusive negotiation period with the Star Tribune to work out a development deal for the property. Rick Collins, Ryan's vice president of development, said "multiple development scenarios" are being mulled for the land but declined to divulge further details.

One scenario apparently involves building a campus for Wells Fargo, a park, and perhaps residential housing, said a source familiar with the plans who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations.

Wells Fargo spokeswoman Peggy Gunn would neither confirm nor deny reports of a prospective new presence on the eastern edge of downtown. "We continually evaluate our space needs for our businesses and try to provide the best facilities we can," she said.

Star Tribune spokesman Steve Yaeger declined to comment. Russ Nelson, a broker with Minneapolis-based Nelson, Tietz & Hoye who was hired by the Star Tribune to handle the newspaper's real estate dealings, also declined comment on Wednesday.

20,000 Minnesota employees

Wells Fargo, the country's fourth-largest bank by assets, is headquartered in San Francisco but employs about 20,000 people in Minnesota. About 8,000 work at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Gunn said employment levels in the state have been "very steady" in recent years, although the company has seen growth in the mortgage lending operations.

Wells Fargo employees are dispersed in leased space throughout downtown Minneapolis, including the Wells Fargo Center, the Northstar Center, the Baker Center and Fifth Street Towers.

Wells Fargo has been looking to consolidate some of its downtown offices, just as it did last fall when it shifted about 1,000 workers to expanded office space at the Metropoint complex in St. Louis Park, said Brent Erickson, senior director of Cushman &Wakefield/NorthMarq. He is not involved in the reported Ryan-Wells Fargo relationship.

At the time, Wells Fargo more than tripled the space it had already rented in St. Louis Park for its insurance and home mortgage businesses.

Should Wells Fargo consolidate operations on the Star Tribune land, it would continue to maintain its Home Mortgage operation in the former Honeywell Inc. headquarters in south Minneapolis, as well as its presence in the Wells Fargo Center office tower, a source said.

Wells Fargo has also scouted land on the western side of downtown, now home to surface parking lots at 10th Street S. and Hennepin and Hawthorne avenues, said Bob Lux, a partner with Minneapolis-based Alatus LLC, an entity of which owns the property. "We have made Wells Fargo aware of our sites, which could accommodate their needs," he said.

Staff writer Jennifer Bjorhus contributed to this report. Janet Moore • 612-673-7752