The developer of a much-anticipated mixed-use development on a once-polluted site in northeast Minneapolis has taken a critical step forward. Peter Chmielewski, vice president of development for Lennar Multifamily Communities, said the company made a down payment on the purchase of the land and on Feb. 7 submitted its formal notice to proceed.

The company hasn't yet closed on the land, but expects to do so in the coming months and plans to start construction before the end of the year. In the meantime, "We are proceeding on this project at full speed as if we already own the land," said Chmielewski. Lennar is making a big splash in the Twin Cities. In addition to the Minneapolis project, the company is developing luxury apartments in Edina and Bloomington.

The two-block site at the corner of 1st and University avenues is being sold by an entity called First and University LLC, which recently completed a lengthy remediation project. The site was the longtime home of Superior Plating, which vacated the premises several years ago.

After proposals by several other developers, Lennar and the project designer, ESG Architects, got an enthusiastic endorsement for their plans from the Nicollet Island East Bank Neighborhood Association in January. The first phase of the project will include 253 luxury rental units, most of them in an 18-story tower, and 22,184 square feet of commercial space.