A 39-story condo tower that's slated to be built along the downtown Minneapolis riverfront could be the tallest, most expensive project of its kind to land in the city since the recession.
Ryan Cos. and Twin Cities developer Luigi Bernardi are partnering to develop the 101-unit project along West River Parkway — the first in the Upper Midwest to be designed by famed Robert A.M. Stern Architects.
The team unveiled its plans for the "Eleven" on Tuesday night before the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association's land-use committee. Reaction has been positive, said Joe Tamburino, DMNA president.
"We want more owner-occupied housing," he said. "I see this as a plus for our neighborhood."
One of the proposal's attributes, he said, is that it calls for at least two parking spaces per unit, plus parking for tenants next door that can be used after-hours for other neighborhood activities including the Guthrie Theater.
"I live and work downtown and bike and walk a lot, but you still need a vehicle," Tamburino said.
The project comes at a time when a record number of rental apartments are under construction throughout the metro, but few condos.
Though floor plans — and prices — are still being finalized, the smallest units in the building as planned will have about 1,600 square feet. All the units will have at least two bedrooms, and there will not be more than five units per floor. The project is now designed as a narrow tower that sits atop a multilevel podium that will house parking and space that can be sold as guest suites and offices.
The lead design architect for the project will be Paul Whalen a partner at Stern, a Park Avenue firm with an international reputation. The firm's work includes 15 Central Park West in New York, One Bennett Park in Chicago and One St. Thomas Street in Toronto.
As part of the design process, Whalen said he spent time in Minneapolis studying the design, scale and details of notable buildings in the Mill District, North Loop and other historic neighborhoods in the city.
"We want to bring urban living in Minneapolis to a new level," said Whalen. "But just as importantly we want to anchor the east end of the city's riverfront with a visually powerful statement and a community that will enliven the neighborhood's streets, paths and parks."
Several recent Mill District condos have fetched more than $1,000 per square foot — the highest in the city.
The tower would be built on what's now a small surface parking lot between two small office buildings along West River Parkway. Ryan owned the site for several years but recently sold it to an LLC associated with Bernardi, a co-developer with Ryan on an Edina residential tower called Arcadia near Southdale and with Opus Group on the Velo in the North Loop.
The site is positioned along the river and Gold Medal Park in a neighborhood that's taken shape on land that was several decades ago occupied by gritty rail yards.
Several historic mill buildings have been converted into luxury condos, hundreds of rental apartments have been built and the area is now home to the Guthrie Theater, MacPhail Center for Music and the Mill City Museum.
The tower would be built next to the Legacy, a 400-plus-unit condo project that's under construction and expected to be ready for occupancy later this year.
As of late, there has been no shortage of upper-bracket home buyers in the Twin Cities metro. Sales of $1 million-plus listings in the 13-county metro have posted the biggest increase of any price range, according to data from the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors. During January, there were 25 percent more $1 million-plus sales compared with last year, but a dearth of options for new condo buyers.
In addition to the Legacy, only a couple condo projects have been completed over the past decade. At the end of January, 457 condos were on the market in the 13-county metro, 22 percent fewer than last year at this time; just 59 of those listings were new construction.
In January, the new condos sold for $487 per square foot, more than four times the price of all existing properties.
Despite what appears to be pent-up demand, developers say they have avoided condo construction, fearing the kind of litigation that was rampant after hundreds of units were built before the recession.
Minnesota has one of the most stringent homeowner warranty laws in the nation, putting developers and others involved in the construction process on the hook for a decade after completion. Individual condo owners belong to homeowners' associations that are often better equipped to pursue construction-defect litigation than an individual homeowner.
The Eleven would stand within sight of a 40-story tower that Twin Cities-based Alatus plans to build on the opposite bank of the river in the St. Anthony Falls Historic District.
That project, known as 200 Central, was given the green light by the city. However, it was opposed by the Neighbors for East Bank Livability, which said the project wasn't appropriate for the St. Anthony Falls Historic District, which strictly limits height and density on new development.
A representative for Alatus said that he expects to clear the final legal hurdle in June and break ground this year.
The Eleven is unlikely to face such hurdles. Though it is within sight of the St. Anthony Falls — the biggest vertical drop along the length of the Mississippi — plus the Stone Arch Bridge and other historic features, it is outside the historic district so it is not governed by the same height and density limits.
Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376