Metropolitan Airports Commission staff is recommending Graves Hospitality as the developer of the first full-service hotel at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Minneapolis-based Graves beat out proposals from Golden Valley-based M.A. Mortenson and St. Paul-based Morrissey Hospitality Companies, according to commission documents. A MAC committee is expected to vote on the recommendation Monday.
"It's a very big deal for us. There were obviously several great proposals, so we are really excited," said Benjamin Graves, president and CEO of Graves Hospitality.
If approved, Graves will be required to enter into a ground lease for a minimum of 40 years on the parcel next to the U.S. Postal Service facility next to the main terminal's outbound traffic lanes.
Graves will own and operate the building and pay the MAC rent. The MAC scored the proposals on several criteria with concept design, construction and operational plans holding the most weight.
The developer said it's too early to reveal details about its design, but added, "it will be a world-class hotel. I think it's going to become our flagship, and it's going to be fantastic." Graves said he hopes to share more details once the committee approves the award.
"I travel quite a bit, and I believe the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport is definitely one of the nicest airports anywhere, and we are super proud to — hopefully — have the opportunity to develop something world-class that we will all be proud of," Graves said.
If the plan moves forward, MSP will join several of its peers around the nation that have onsite hotels. The MAC's vision for the property "is a visually captivating structure providing exemplary, reliable hospitality services to the MSP airport community. The hotel's visual message and personality need to communicate and complement the spirit and vision of MSP, 'providing the best airport experience in North America,' " according to a memorandum posted Wednesday morning.
The developer is known locally for Graves 601 Hotel near Target Center, which it has since sold and is now Loews Minneapolis Hotel. But the company has its hands in various high-end or boutique hotel and restaurant projects in the Twin Cities, throughout the Upper Midwest and in New York and several other markets.
Graves owns and operates the Marriott Residence Inn in downtown Minneapolis. It manages about half the hotel rooms in downtown St. Paul between the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and the Crowne Plaza, which is undergoing major renovation and will relaunch this summer as an Intercontinental Hotel.
Graves and his father, Jim Graves, are also working on a few hotel and restaurant projects in Uptown that have not been finalized. Meanwhile, its Bradstreet Craftshouse concept that was popular at Graves 601 is being expanded beyond its cocktails and include food at a new location near the intersection of Hennepin and Franklin avenues. Graves hopes it will open in the next few months.
Outside of the Twin Cities, Graves Hospitality made headlines in New York for opening the first full-service hotel in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood. The boutique hotel was wildly successful, and Graves sold the property for 2 ½ times the cost of development, Graves said.
The airport project will be his and his father's "local pet project," Graves said.
Several logistical hurdles may need to be cleared. The request for proposal (RFP) listed a skyway connection, so portions of the project may be behind airport security. This would require hotel employees to pass background checks and, perhaps, be issued airport security badges, according to the document.
Mortenson and Morrissey expressed disappointment in losing the award.
"We believe our proposal for a Le Meridien hotel at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport offered tremendous value for the MAC and the local hospitality industry. We look forward to identifying other opportunities for developing it in the Twin Cities," said a statement from Bob Solfelt, vice president and general manager for Mortenson Development.
Bill Morrissey, president and CEO of Morrissey Hospitality, said, "I am happy for Graves. … There's an awful lot of unknowns in the site selected and the future of things around there."
The Graves team includes PCL as its construction partner and RSP Architects as the designer.