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Aiming High

Aiming High

A tower proposal by Duval Development on the Minneapolis skyline.
Courtesy respective companies

The City of Minneapolis hopes to remake a downtown parking lot and bus layover as “the gateway to the entire downtown area". Three proposals are currently under review, but one ambitious scheme—a tower high enough to become the tallest building in Minnesota—has already been rejected by city planners.

A 1.7-acre, city-owned block at 30 Third Street South, the property is commonly referred to as the Nicollet Hotel Block for its former use and adjacency to the Nicollet Mall, itself currently the focus of an ambitious $50 million redesign led by James Corner Field Operations. The city’s request for proposals called for a mixed-use development at least 20 stories tall with “integrated public/green space amenities.” In December, officials announced they’d accepted proposals from four Twin Cities developers: Doran Development, Mortenson, United Properties Investment, and Duval Development.

Doran’s plan calls for a 30-story tower with residential units, a hotel building, restaurant and retail space, and elevated gardens. The architect is Minneapolis-based Boarman Kroos Vogel Group.

  
From left, Nicollet Hotel Block proposals from United Properties Investment, Duval Development, and Mortenson.
 

Mortenson proposed a 31-story residential tower with 273 apartments; a hotel, a five-story office complex and a 15,000-square-foot gateway plaza that renderings show in winter boasting seasonal art and an ice skating rink. Their plan—which counts as team members The Excelsior Group, Coen+Partners, ESG Architects, and RSP Architects—would include both elevated and underground parking, although the amount is not specified.

“We embrace the City’s vision for an iconic design and sustainable urban space that connects the Gateway District and welcomes the community,” said Bob Solfelt, Mortenson’s vice president and general manager, in a press release. (Mortenson declined further comment while the proposals are under city review.)

United Properties goes a bit higher, offering a 36-story luxury residential tower with 300 units and a full-service Hilton hotel. Their design, by LHB, includes a “year-round, street-level activity park” that the project team said will embrace a forthcoming trolley car line planned for 2018. Their plans also call for elevated outdoor spaces on both the hotel and apartments, as well as a rising pattern of LED-lit mullions that would illuminate the building facade at night.

Duval’s plan was the most ambitious in scale. At 80 stories, it would have surpassed Philip Johnson’s IDS Center as the state’s tallest building. Developer Alex Duval said the time is right for just such a high-density development in the area. “[Minneapolis] has the fourth highest median household income per capita of large cities in the U.S., trailing only San Francisco, New York, and Washington D.C.,” said Duval. “Minneapolis has been undergoing a transformation of its historically industrial riverfront to a residential, cultural, and recreational waterfront… The Nicollet Hotel Block is at the center point of this zone.”

City planners disagreed, however, citing concerns about the scale of the building and Duval’s assessment of the local real estate market in a January decision to strike the proposal.

The glassy tower would have housed 220 apartments and an unspecified amount of office space, as well as TV and radio studios on the ground level, beneath six floors of parking. Architect Ralph Johnson, principal of Perkins + Will, described the building as “a series of interlocking volumes expressed by reveals and a central atrium,” terminating at the top with a beacon-like, illuminated glass veil.

In a poll conducted by the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal, two-thirds of the 1,286 respondents said they preferred Duval’s plan.

The remaining three proposals await public review and zoning considerations.

The city said it will sell the property at market value with no public subsidy. Construction is expected to begin in early- to mid-2016.

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