Surface parking and empty lots may soon become a thing of the past on Washington Avenue with several new projects proposed for some of the last remaining undeveloped parcels on the downtown Minneapolis corridor.
Developers and city staff presented a range of projects Monday night at a standing-room-only meeting of the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association. If completed, they could dramatically alter several key corners of Washington Avenue.
“I think we are now at a place of really maturing and solidifying what this neighborhood is,” said City Council Member Steve Fletcher, who represents the area.
Washington Avenue, in recent years, has become a hotbed for development with a contrast of historic buildings and sleek modern structures that have seemingly risen overnight. Like any city, there will be some tension as the neighborhood continues to evolve, Fletcher said.
A decade ago, nearly any development of a parking lot would be considered a positive, he said.
“Now I think, people are a little bit more discerning. … I think we need to start thinking does it meet the community’s needs?” Fletcher said about the plans.
The latest round includes:
800 Washington Av.
Out of four proposals submitted on what to build on the city-owned Guthrie Liner Parcel at 800 Washington Av. S., city staff wants to recommend a plan for a nine-story, 76-condo building with some affordable units.
Emily Stern, a senior project coordinator with the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development department, told the neighborhood association that city staff favored the condo plan that was submitted by AECOM, a firm based in Los Angeles that has a Minneapolis office, and co-developer Sandra Rieger & Co.
Stern said AECOM best met the city’s criteria for proposals for the small patch of city-owned land near the Guthrie Theater with a proposed purchase price that was above the appraised value and had “by far the most innovative design” that included a rooftop garden and sustainability features. There would also be space for the American Academy of Neurology’s office expansion, as well as for several retailers.
Sherman Associates, which wanted to build a 10-story, 112-unit apartment complex, including bowling-and-restaurant chain Pinstripes, was the staff’s second choice. City staff has tentatively planned to recommend AECOM’s proposal to the City Council at the end of the month.
240 and 258 Hennepin Av.
An empty grass lot at the prominent corner of Hennepin and Washington avenues, across from the Whole Foods grocery store, could be the site of an apartment complex that rises 18 to 20 stories.
Chicago-area-based developers Harlem Irving Cos. and CA Ventures said they wanted to build a 350-unit apartment complex with retailers on the first floor.
“It’s at the confluence of all these neighborhoods,” said Evan Jacobsen from Tushie Montgomery Architects, which is in the early stages of designing the complex.
The larger 240 Hennepin Av. portion of the site along Washington Avenue is owned by 21st Century Bank in Blaine. The 258 Hennepin Av. parcel, which is being used as a parking lot, is owned by nearby temporary staffing company Dolphin Group Cos.
Harlem Irving and CA Ventures recently became partners on a more than 330-unit apartment development designed by Tushie Montgomery Architects, which includes a Fresh Thyme grocery store in the Prospect Park neighborhood.
On the other side of Hennepin Avenue, plans for the Gateway project at the Nicollet Hotel Block site have once again changed. As the Star Tribune reported last month, developer United Properties now proposes mostly office space on the site, now used as a parking lot.
Other iterations of this plan have also included a Four Seasons hotel and condos or apartments, as well as office space.
Rick McKelvey of United Properties told the meeting that it wasn’t an ideal time to pursue a hotel development. However, it is possible United Properties might still seek the hotel with condos and office space, which the company prefers.
“I don’t want to take this off the table,” McKelvey said.
According to a spokeswoman last week, United Properties is currently proceeding with the entitlement process for an all-office plan to be able to keep on schedule for its main office tenant RBC Wealth Management. While there would be retail space, offices would take up most of the 30-story tower.
The neighborhood association’s land use committee voted to endorse a letter of support for the hotel plan and the all-office plan.
240 Park Av.
The Vikings owners want to build a 17-story tower with more than 200 apartments on a parking lot at the corner of Washington and Park avenues.
The Wilf family’s New Jersey-based Garden Homes Development wants to build a L-shaped tower at 240 Park. The Wilfs, who bought the parking lot in 2007, also own two other lots that are closer to U.S. Bank Stadium and near the light-rail stop.
At the meeting, several audience members, who identified themselves as living in nearby condos, voiced their displeasure with the project’s height and scale, and said the project would tower over nearby residential buildings, blocking sightlines and light.
The committee asked the developer to take the feedback into consideration and to provide updated plans at a future meeting.
OX-OP Gallery & Residences
A 150-unit apartment complex and potential art gallery have been proposed to replace Grumpy’s Bar & Grill close to 11th and Washington avenues.
TE Miller and Solhem Cos. have proposed building the eight-level structure, which would wrap around the Day Block Brewing building.
While developers have communicated with Day Block about their plan, brewery owner Jeff Hahn said he was concerned the complex could have a negative effect on his business by adding parking strains and leading to a noise-level clash with the brewery serving regularly as an event space. The way the building is shaped around the brewery is also a point of contention, he said.
“It blocks Day Block quite a bit,” Hahn said.
The committee still provided a letter of support for the OX-OP project.