One of the last buildable riverfront stretches in downtown Minneapolis is on the verge of being redeveloped.
Opus Group unveiled plans for a six-story, 200-unit apartment building on the site to the planning and zoning committee of the North Loop Neighborhood Association on Wednesday night.
The Minnetonka-based company is on the verge of acquiring the site, which is at the corner of Plymouth Avenue and West River Parkway, from Star Tribune Media Co., which has its printing plant adjacent to it.
Nick Murnane, director of real estate development for Opus, said the building will have many amenities for residents and high-end finishes in the apartments.
"It's in a warehouse district, but it's new construction, so our challenge was to design a new building with some of that character, but with a modern feel," Murnane said.
Jackie Peacha, a North Loop resident and co-chair of the committee, said some committee members were underwhelmed by the plan.
"This is the last parcel of land facing the river in our neighborhood and also a gateway to the North Loop," she said. "The idea of yet another apartment building going up is concerning. We feel the mix has shifted and would prefer this parcel of land be used for condos or a structure of significance."
Peacha said the plan is "a missed opportunity" to make a stronger design statement. Murnane said the company wanted to create a project that honors the parklike setting, so the proposal is far less dense than would be permitted and includes several enhancements to the current parkway and pedestrian connection from 8th Avenue to West River Parkway.
He said the team will make revisions based on feedback before presenting plans to the Minneapolis city planning department's committee of the whole in December.
The site is in the St. Anthony Falls Historic District, so regardless of what is ultimately proposed, a certificate of appropriateness from the Heritage Preservation Commission will be required. Most of the site is already zoned for high-density multifamily housing that could allow up to 400 units without density bonuses or a variance.
The 2.5-acre site was acquired several decades ago by the former owner of the Star Tribune when the company was acquiring land to build a printing plant in what was then a sleepy, gritty warehouse district. A Star Tribune spokesperson said the parcel is the last undeveloped piece of land owned by the company.
At one time the parent company of the newspaper owned several blocks in downtown Minneapolis, but has now winnowed those holdings down to just the printing plant, an employee parking lot and an adjacent equipment garage, none of which is part of this offering.
Earlier this year, the company sent a request for proposals to several developers. That pool was narrowed, and based on their ability to close the deal and develop the site, the company picked Opus. Pending a signed purchase agreement, the deal is expected to close in 2018. Russ Nelson and Anna Coskran of NTH brokered the deal. Terms weren't disclosed.
Coskran said the site was far more popular than anticipated because it offers an unusual combination of green space, skyline views and proximity to the river.
"It's not a typical North Loop site," she said. The Opus proposal, she said, is appealing because it preserves so much of that green space while creating a connection from the North Loop to the riverfront that doesn't already exist.