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'Iconic' high-rise building wanted to replace downtown Minneapolis parking lot

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The City of Minneapolis is aiming high with its downtown revamp plans by seeking proposals to build an “iconic” new building over a current parking lot.

Developers have been challenged to put forward a “high quality design” for a building with no fewer than 20 stories at 30 Third St. S, formerly home to the Nicollet Hotel, according to a city proposal brief released on Wednesday.

It is part of a push by the city to revitalize the Gateway District, with major improvements of the nearby Nicollet Mall and Washington Avenue already in the pipeline.

The city wants the Nicollet Hotel lot to become an “iconic, area-defining development” that will include a mixture of commercial, street-front retail, residential, office and hospitality space, along with public green space.

The development will also need to leave room for the city's proposed streetcar line, which will make a turn next to the site once it is completed in 2018. The brief says:

"The site is near to many recent and planned developments in the City’s downtown, an area that has experienced a residential population boom and significant real estate development activity over the last decade.

"The Nicollet Hotel Block was once a gateway to the entire downtown area anchored by an 18-story hotel. Over time, the site has gone from being this gateway to a publicly owned parking lot and bus layover site.

"The City expects submitted proposals to return this block to prominence in downtown and considers this to be an opportunity to
introduce an iconic, area-defining development."

The Star Tribune reports a potentially controversial aspect of the proposal is that it leaves room for a skyway connection to Minneapolis Central Library, which has become one of the city's best-loved architectural achievements since it opened in 2006.

Ward 3 Council Member Jacob Frey told the newspaper this provision does not necessarily mean a skyway will appear in the final plans, but the proposal brief does say: “Potential developers are encouraged to design and construct a skyway.”

The historic 18-story Nicollet Hotel was demolished in 1991 and the 1.7 acre site was bought by the city in 1993 with federal transit funds earmarked for the creation of a transit terminal on the site, according to the Minneapolis-St Paul Business Journal.

The Journal adds this is the fourth time since 2002 the city has sought submissions for the site, but it says this time is different because the federal government has scrapped its requirement for a public transport station to be part of any development.

The development proposals comes at a time when there has been growing calls to make better use of the city's parking lots.

In 2012, the City was given a grant of just over $43,000 to investigate 140 surface parking lots to identify possible urban development sites that could help realize the goal of doubling the downtown's population, according to the Star Tribune.

And earlier this year, councilman Frey called for the "beautification" of the city's remaining parking lots, which referred to as "the bane of Downtown".

Additional downtown development

The Nicollet Hall plot is just one site targeted by the City for redevelopment, with others either underway or planned including:

The creation of the "Nicollet Mile":

Nicollet Mall is in line for a $50million facelift under plans from the city and the Minneapolis Downtown Council to create a "Nicollet Mile" similar to Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Finance and Commerce reports.

The plans feature a re-imagining of the public space, with extra-wide sidewalks, new seating, outdoor performance and market space, room for trees and green areas.

It is hoped that construction work can begin in the spring and that the work will be completed in mid-2016.

Washington Avenue revamp:

Work on the redevelopment of Washington Avenue, which runs adjacent to the Nicollet Hotel site, is also set to begin this spring after plans were approved by the city and Hennepin County.

Plans on the Hennepin County website show the work will lead to the introduction of a bicycle lane, the widening of sidewalks and planned changes to traffic lane layout between Hennepin and Fifth Avenue South.

Vikings Stadium/Downtown East:

The $1 billion, part-publicly funded construction of the new Vikings Stadium has proved controversial to say the least, but the opening of the stadium in 2016 will coincide with the wider redevelopment of the Downtown East area.

Work has already started on the $420million mixed-used development stretching over five blocks. The first phase of the project includes the construction of two 18-story buildings that will be owned and operated by Wells Fargo. Ground was broken on these buildings in May and will eventually house 5,000 staff.

The Downtown East project will also include 193 apartments in three buildings, several thousand square feet of commercial space, and the creation of a two-block public park, the Star Tribune says.

A 27-story building over a planned parking lot for Vikings Stadium was also planned, but how this development will end up looking is uncertain for now after Radisson Red pulled out of the project.

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