Minneapolis officials unveil plans for 36-story downtown tower

United Properties
A rendering of the Gateway's outdoor plaza featuring fountains and gathering places.

Minneapolis city officials were practically giddy Friday morning as they stood next to the renderings for the development of a key parcel of downtown property.

In a 13th-floor conference room overlooking the real estate in question — a dreary parking lot adjacent to the Central Library — Mayor Betsy Hodges called the choice of the Pohlad family-controlled United Properties as the site’s developer a “significant milestone.”

“Take a good, hard look out the window because it’s not going to look like this for long,” she said.

Council Member Jacob Frey, who represents the ward in which the project is located, was even more effusive about the plans: “They say great urban design is like a great party,” he said. “You linger a little bit longer, you lose track of time and you stumble home at 3 a.m. in the morning. To that extent, the Nicollet Hotel Block will be one of the best parties of the last decade.”

Calling the project “The Gateway,” United is proposing a 36-story mixed-use building that includes: 300 apartments, a “Canopy by Hilton” hotel with 182 rooms; street-level retail; Skyway-level offices; and below ground parking for 325 cars. LHB Architects is the lead architect and Stuart Development will develop the apartments. A general contractor has not been selected.

The design will meet the city’s preference for connection to the Skyway system, with the current plan to build one over 3rd Street to connect with the Cesar-Pelli designed Central Library. A second skyway would need to be built from the library over Nicollet Mall to another proposed development by Opus.

The land where the United Properties building will stand has a storied, if frustrating, history. For many years it held the Nicollet Hotel, which was eventually torn down, and the land was purchased by the city with federal transit dollars to be used as a transit center — a fancy name for a lot where cars parked and buses idled. Previous attempts to do something with the site were unsuccessful because the Federal Transit Administration insisted it retain transit uses, a deal-breaker for developers.

The Gateway
United Properties
The Gateway rendering

But a series of negotiations with the FTA and Metro Transit finally produced a deal a year ago. The bus transfer operation was relocated to the Gateway Ramp, and federal officials allowed the city to own — and sell — the property free of the transit-use requirement.

An ambitious request for proposals was issued last fall. Any developer would have to create a building with at least 20 stories of active space, large green spaces open to the public, a mix of uses, accommodations for a hoped-for streetcar — without any subsidies from the city.

“This project will turn this historic site into a place where people enjoy a variety of amenities right where they live, right where they work, right where they play,” Hodges said.

Minneapolis-based United Properties was chosen from three finalists. Hodges said it will pay better than market prices for the land and will create an iconic building on the land just north of the main downtown library. She credited Council Members Lisa Goodman and Jacob Frey for helping shepherd to project. Goodman’s ward included the land for 16 years, but it is now in Frey’s Ward 3.

“If this site was easy to develop, it would have been done by now,” Goodman said.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Ted Hathaway on 02/06/2015 - 08:31 pm.

    Small lot

    A “dreary” parking lot, Mr. Callaghan? Is there another kind?

    The old Nicollet Hotel block is maybe 2/3rds the size of a normal city block, but the rendition of the project in United Properties illustration makes it not only look much bigger, but more or less square (it’s a trapezoid). It looks like the towers (big ‘uns, too) will sprout from the corner of Hennepin and Washington. Pretty small space, that. Are these going to be an example of those “pencil” towers they say are popping up in NYC? Somehow, I doubt there will be quite as much space for the Millennium Park-type behaviors suggested in UP’s happy illustration. From our mere 4th floor view upon said “dreary” doomed parking lot, my colleague, Bailey, and I will look forward to future developments and keep a close eye out for the ghost of Neil Messick after the ground-breaking.

  2. Submitted by Alex Bauman on 02/07/2015 - 10:01 am.

    Why insult people who use transit?

    A transit center is not “a fancy name for a lot where cars parked and buses idled”. A (good) transit center is a place where people who use transit can wait for or transfer buses in comfort, and where places where multiple routes connect can be made more understandable for users. Is this an opinion or a news piece? If the latter, who exactly thinks comfortable, legible transit transfers aren’t important? Is it Betsy Hodges? Jacob Frey? Either way, including this cheap insult degrades the quality of this piece and Peter Callaghan’s reporting.

  3. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 02/07/2015 - 01:28 pm.

    The gem of Mpls and future plans in prime city space…

    Does ‘ mixed use ‘ suggest mixed development of both wealthy and social housing tenants? Or does the term suggest retail/commercial and housing strictly upscale sans social housing space?

    If privately funded no affordable tenant space need apply?

    Leaping for tall buildings: The ghosts of the old Gateway may return on a “dreary” night when the sun no longer shines as the high structural nature of the development evolves…and will green space be a gated area or public space?

    Will “poor doors’ be involved in the architectural appointments ?

    So much sounds great but for whom…who will be able to access such great future planning?

    May the ghosts of the old Gateway appear as shadows among board room planners who should/could be listening to those lost voices which time has embedded in the history from a past Gateway?

    Will public green spaces eventually or even initially become private greens; open or gating the public?…if not Gateway may consider an alternate name for that future gem…like Gated Out?

    • Submitted by Jesse Langanki on 02/09/2015 - 08:33 am.

      Most likely it will be luxury housing, and I wouldn’t expect nor want affordable housing in this building. We’re a capitalist society, the rich get to live in the best, newest, largest homes. Treating all people equally (also known as communism) didn’t work.

      • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 02/09/2015 - 04:00 pm.

        Yeah, we’re capitalist, but we also support socialistic policies, like public education, police and fire protection, roads, a military, etc.

        Now, treating all people equally isn’t known as communism, it’s known as equality.

        Communism is a socioeconomic system marked by the lack of social classes and/or money and the shared ownership of all means of production within said society. It’s also generally proven not to work well.

        Equality is where everyone gets the same fundamental rights and is treated equally under the law, regardless of class, income, race, or gender.

  4. Submitted by Sally Henson on 02/07/2015 - 02:35 pm.

    Exactly WHERE are we talking about?

    Wouldn’t it have been nice if this article had mentioned at the beginning where the lot in question was located, instead of forcing us to guess? Many people, and out-of-town readers, may have no idea where “the old Nicollet Hotel” was, or which side of the Library this might be on.

    I believe one of the questions journalists are supposed to ask, and answer, along with Who, What, When, and Why, is WHERE.

    • Submitted by Ted Hathaway on 02/07/2015 - 07:40 pm.

      RE: Exactly WHERE are we talking about?

      Agreed. There should have been a simple map provided for readers. Briefly: The building site is a few blocks away from there Hennepin and Nicollet Aves (now Mall) used to converge, just before reaching the Mississippi river; an area later called “The Gateway.” The City’s roots are in this area and, indeed, City Hall (then “Bridge Square”) was at the convergence of the avenues. The area was virtually obliterated in the late 50s/early 60s in the name of “urban renewal” only to limp along only semi-developed with many vacant lots and little activity, while most development occurred at the other end of the Mall.

      But all that’s change in recent years and this part of downtown closest to the river, also known as the “North Loop” is seeing more development than it has in over a century. This building is just the latest in that trend. This is really part of the general redevelopment of the City’s riverfront and its return to its historic roots. The “old Nicollet Hotel” was built in the 1920s and torn down over 20 years ago (Mr. Callaghan’s “dreary parking lot” ever since). But before that hotel, it was the Nicollet House. If you were traveling the country in the late 1850s and found yourself spending some time in frontier town of Minneapolis, that is where you would have stayed.

  5. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/09/2015 - 08:37 am.

    Given

    The Pohlad family experience at Target Field: get maximum state benefit to assist their private enterprise and then shed every pledge as to how the team would be run (in a competitive manner) in order to maximize profits (now the 6th most profitable team in all of baseball), one would think such behavior would not be encouraged with follow on deals with the Target Field Transit Center and now this. But, as long as politicians can be wined and dined at beautiful Target Field and be further lubricated with Pohlad campaign contributions they will be the favored ones.

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