By Burl Gilyard
Dolan Media Newswires
Minneapolis — You can almost hear the roar of the crowd at Target Field. Opening day at the new baseball stadium is set for April 12.
But the area surrounding the new ballpark is pretty quiet.
The new stadium had been touted as a boon for area development. But with high commercial vacancy, tough-to-find financing and a still-shaky housing market, there’s little on the horizon.
Minneapolis-based Schafer Richardson has a proposal for 188 market-rate apartment units, a project called Third North. But so far, the developer has not secured financing and it’s unclear when the project would move forward.
Maureen Michalski, a project manager with Schafer Richardson, said company officials would like to start construction of Third North in the fall.
“I think it’s a little too early to say how likely that is,” Michalski said.
Schafer Richardson previously developed three adjacent condo buildings in the area: 710 Lofts, 720 Lofts and 730 Lofts. The developer is still trying to sell the remaining units in the last building, 730 Lofts, which was completed in fall of 2007 and is 4½ blocks from the stadium.
And next door to 730 Lofts, Schafer Richardson owns the vacant Dial Warehouse building, one of many commercial properties that the firm owns in the neighborhood with an eye on eventual redevelopment.
“It’s coming up on 100 years old. It’s a vintage building in need of a redevelopment,” said David Frank, director of development with Schafer Richardson.
But in today’s market, Frank said, “Doing a redevelopment project is challenging in the extreme.”
Houston-based Hines Interests has touted North Loop Village, a plan calling for more than 1,000 housing units, office, retail and hotel components flanking the stadium site to the north and south.
Once, Hines had wanted to break ground on a 350-unit apartment project in 2009. But so far, nothing has happened. Hines representatives did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Perhaps the most concrete development plan for the area comes from public agency Metro Transit, which is planning a new bus garage. Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons said the project budget is $70 million, including land costs.
Gibbons said the best-case scenario calls for starting construction in 2013. The project does not yet have financing secured.
The neighborhood is thick with “For Sale” and “For Lease” signs on the sides of buildings.
At one site, owners have been trying to draw interest for a restaurant. The vacant site, at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue North and Fourth Street North, was meant to be part of the campus including the Bookmen Stacks and Bookmen Lofts condo developments.
Jim Ahmann, owner of Bloomington-based Ahmann Realty Services, is listing the site for the owners, Bookmen developer Steve Frenz and partners.
The site, which totals about 8,800 square feet, is listed for $625,000. Ahmann said there’s already a fair amount of competition from other restaurants and bars in the area.
“I think it’s going to take a little time yet,” Ahmann said. “I don’t really see a national chain coming in right off the get-go. With capital markets where they are, it’s a real tough sell.”
Ahmann said a restaurant operator needs more than 81 home baseball games to sustain a business throughout the year.
Like many others in the area today, Ahmann is preaching patience with the market.
“I’ve had some real high-end operators looking at it. They’re just not jumping at this point,” Ahmann said. “It’s just a matter of timing. It’s really going to take the right concept.”