Members of the Minneapolis City Council on Tuesday questioned United Properties’ new plan for the Nicollet Hotel Block, citing frustration that the design for a new tower is straying from what the developer originally presented.
The city is negotiating contract terms with the Bloomington-based developer to sell the block, which was the site of the former Nicollet Hotel and is next to the Minneapolis Central Library.
The firm and its partners encountered mild pushback over design changes they made since winning a contest last February for development rights.
“When we selected United Properties, the vision that was portrayed was impressive,” said Council Member Jacob Frey, who represents the area. “At this point in time, we have a building, as well as a public realm component, that is quite simply not there yet.”
United Properties originally proposed a 36-story, mixed-use project of 300 apartments, 182 hotel rooms and retail, commercial and public space. Now it plans about 33 stories with 300 hotel rooms and about 150 apartments, along with the retail, commercial and public space.
A City Council panel sent the matter forward without a recommendation Tuesday — a move typically reserved for issues requiring additional work — citing objections with the building’s proposed design.
Frey later specifically highlighted the need for an improved connection between Hennepin and Nicollet avenues, as well as lights illuminating the building’s exterior.
Another council member, Lisa Goodman, pointed to concerns over the mass of the building where it meets Hennepin Avenue.
The development team’s new designer, ESG Architects of Minneapolis, responded that the latest images are far from complete. ESG was brought into the project just two weeks ago and had to quickly model a preliminary outline based on the financial parameters of the project’s new apartment developer partner, Greystar.
“We just need about a week to fully draw this out,” said Aaron Roseth, a principal at ESG.
Last winter, the developer said publicly that the design renderings were still in their early stages and that they likely would change.
“As is often the case with a [competitively bid] process, given market conditions, given the loss of a residential developer … things change,” Frey said.
United Properties not only lost its apartment developer since winning the bid, it also lost the team’s architect and what it thought would be its hotel brand. ESG and Greystar are still designing the structure based on what the market can absorb.
The Nicollet Hotel Block is named for a stately hotel that stood there until 1991. The city-owned land has served as a parking lot since, but Minneapolis officials finally pushed for market development last year based on growing demand for downtown real estate.
When granting exclusive negotiating rights to United Properties, city officials said the company’s sale offer and estimated development costs were a primary reason it was selected. The firm is offering to pay $10.4 million and spend around $161 million to build the structure and public space.