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Developers jostle for Minneapolis property

Three development teams have responded to a request for proposals for the Liner Parcel site at 800 Washington Ave. S. (File photo by Bill Klotz)

Three development teams have responded to a request for proposals for the Liner Parcel site at 800 Washington Ave. S. (File photo by Bill Klotz)

By Burl Gilyard
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — Once upon a time, a vacant, city-owned L-shaped site near the Guthrie Theater was slated for condos.

But the market fell apart, and the developer walked away in 2007.

Since then, the so-called Liner Parcel site has been little more than a bare patch of land in an area largely surrounded by redevelopment.

But the city now is entertaining three competing proposals for the site after three development teams responded to a request for proposals.

The St. Paul-based American Academy of Neurology is proposing a 50,000-square-foot office building for the nonprofit group’s new headquarters. As part of the pitch, Minneapolis-based nonprofit developer Artspace Projects would build a separate building with 36 affordable housing units and some commercial space. Combined, the two projects would total more than $25 million, with AAN’s portion accounting for $15 million.

St. Louis Park-based JMW Development is pitching a 72,000-square-foot, multitenant office building that would cost between $13 million and $15 million.

Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates is proposing a mixed-use project with 75 apartments and 15,000 square feet of commercial space. The project budget is approximately $14 million.

The Liner Parcel site wraps around the city-owned Riverfront Ramp, across the street from the Guthrie Theater. The site measures approximately 41,000 square feet.

“We feel confident that it’s time for us to own our own building,” said Timothy Engel, chief financial officer of the American Academy of Neurology, which has tabbed Golden Valley-based Mortenson Construction as the general contractor.

Minneapolis-based Artspace Projects joined AAN to satisfy the city’s stated desire to see the entire parcel developed.

“One of the requests of the RFP is that they wanted a lively street front along Washington Avenue,” said Stacey Mickelson, vice president of government affairs for Artspace. Artspace focuses on providing housing for artists.

The two other teams to submit were both aware of AANís proposal. Both teams report their projects could co-exist with the new AAN office building.

Paul Maenner, a principal with JMW Development, said his firm’s potential tenants include Minneapolis-based LHB, the project architect, Minneapolis-based nonprofit developer Aeon and another group. If all of those tenants commit to the project, Maenner said, the building would be about 76 percent pre-leased.

The Sherman apartment proposal calls for 80 percent of the building to be market-rate rentals and 20 percent of the building to be affordable units.

Sherman’s headquarters is just a block away from the Liner Parcel site.

Previously, The Rottlund Co. had planned to develop The Revue, a 107-unit condo proposal on the site. The company nixed those plans as the air went out of the condo market.

Last year, the city issued a call for ideas for interim uses on the vacant parcel. In January, the Minneapolis City Council approved a temporary license agreement with the St. Paul-based Forecast Public Art for a public art installation on the site. Forecast could still proceed with those plans before the siteís eventual redevelopment.

The city spent nearly $30 million to build the Riverfront Ramp, which opened at the end of 2005. The city previously tried to sell the ramp but could not reach terms with either the Guthrie Theater Foundation or Minneapolis-based Alatus LLC.

The city’s RFP outlines a schedule for final City Council action on selecting a developer in June, but city schedules for evaluating development proposals are rarely set in stone.

“We simply have to let the city process unfold,” Maenner said, “to see what direction they would like to go.”

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