A seven-story office building proposed for a downtown Mankato intersection won key approvals last week from the city, putting it on track for a February groundbreaking.

The $19 million, 69,180-square-foot Eide Bailly Center would be the latest in a string of redevelopment projects that are altering the city's skyline.

Commercial real estate developers Rob Else and Tony Frentz, organized as Neubau Tower Inc., said that Eide Bailly Center could be completed by November 2019.

Their request for $400,000 in city loans and $1.9 million in tax-increment financing (TIF) won initial approval from the City Council last week. A public hearing on TIF has been scheduled for Feb. 12, and construction of the complex could begin soon after on a roughly 1-acre downtown parcel at Main and 2nd streets.

It would include an adjacent 199-stall parking ramp, a ground-level restaurant and rooftop event center, and outdoor patio.

The main tenant — Fargo-based accounting firm Eide Bailly — would use about 24,000 square feet of the available space. Other tenants, including Knutson Construction, would take the rest, according to documents filed with the city.

The project comes a little more than two years after the opening of the city's biggest economic development project, Block 518. That $40 million project included 161,000 square feet of space divided between three buildings: the seven-story Profinium Place, five-story Ridley Tower, and a residential and retail building at 512 S. Front St., along with restaurants, loft apartments, retail space and a parking ramp.

The Block 518 office towers were the first for downtown Mankato since the early 1980s, and have changed the skyline near the city's core. They stand about six blocks from the Eide Bailly Center site.

About 180 people in all would work at Eide Bailly Center, many coming from other locations around Mankato along with 50 new employees, said Mankato community development director Paul Vogel.

The development would require demolition of a vacant 9,700-square-foot building that once housed a day-care center and bookstore along S. 2nd Street.

Developers Else and Frentz said the project includes about $3.8 million in costs that qualify for assistance from Mankato's economic development funds, mostly for soil stabilization and construction of the parking ramp.

They've asked for two city loans of $200,000 each with terms of 10 to 15 years and interest at 3 to 5 percent.

The proposed city financing also includes tax-increment financing of up to $1.9 million over 15 years.

The city financing, along with the creation of a TIF district and details on when the public could use the parking ramp, would be included in the final development agreement to be hammered out at the February public hearing.

Eide Bailly Center will sit within two blocks of the city's tallest buildings, the Hilton Garden Inn built in 2007 and Walnut Towers public housing.

Mankato has had one of the fastest-growing economies in the Upper Midwest, said Jonathan Zierdt, president and CEO for Greater Mankato Growth, Inc. Manufacturing has grown at 2.5 to 4.5 percent for the past eight or nine months, measured year over year, he added.

"That's not a sector that people are experiencing growth in all that much," he said.

The Mankato-North Mankato population rose from 44,467 in 2000 to 55,339 today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Unemployment has fallen or held steady since 2010, with the latest figure at 2.4 percent.

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