After shutting down its construction operation amid lawsuits and financial woes, Thor Cos. will no longer be a part of the redevelopment team for the Upper Harbor Terminal site in north Minneapolis, project leaders said Tuesday.
The construction company's founder said in April that it would continue consulting and design services. But the city had an agreement with Thor's development arm, which is ceasing operations, along with its construction role, project leaders said.
"From what I understand, neither one of them are going to survive this reorganization," Erik Hansen, the city's director of economic policy and development, said Tuesday. "So the likely report to the [City Council] is we would remove Thor as a development partner."
Ravi Norman, the company's former chief executive, will stay on as a consultant, said Brandon Champeau, senior vice president of United Properties and a project lead. United Properties has control over who it consults for the project, and Champeau said it has continued to work with Norman over the past few months.
"He's in it in a different capacity, not as a named development partner," Hansen said.
Norman and Thor founder Richard Copeland did not respond to requests for comment.
United Properties' first partner in the project was First Avenue Productions, which would run an amphitheater on the site, Champeau said. He said they brought in Thor, once the state's largest minority-owned company, to get the perspective of the North Side community. At the time, the company was breaking ground on its north Minneapolis headquarters.
The transformation of the 48-acre riverfront site is being led by the city, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the development team, of which United Properties is the main partner. The City Council unanimously approved a concept plan for the redevelopment in March.
Even before it breaks ground, the project has had a turbulent history. Fears that the massive redevelopment would gentrify the North Side spurred protests from neighbors and community activists. They aimed their sharpest criticism at the amphitheater, which they saw as an intrusive attraction that would primarily benefit tourists. On Tuesday, Hansen called it "one of the components of this plan that has been most controversial."
In response, the city appointed a committee of 17 members — many who live or work in north Minneapolis — to consult the development team this summer as it refines the project. The city will meet with the committee Wednesday and throughout the summer.
Hansen expects to have a preferred design for the site by the beginning of next year, with the council reviewing it in the spring.
"It is the number one project for the city," Hansen said. "We don't want to mess this thing up."
Staff writers Neal St. Anthony and Nicole Norfleet contributed to this report.
Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753