Downtown East project backers scramble to nail down key details

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The $400 million plan to develop a drab stretch of eastern downtown Minneapolis near the new Vikings stadium has hit a few snags.

City officials and project developer Ryan Cos. are rushing to nail down key details before a new mayor and seven new members on the 13-member City Council are sworn in about six weeks from now, the Star Tribune reports.

The project dubbed Downtown East aims to transform a five-block area near the planned $975 million stadium, with 1.2 million square feet of office space, two 17-story office buildings, about 200 residential units to start, a parking garage and a 4.2-acre park.

But the Star Tribune calls it a "complicated work in progress."

As the Pioneer Press notes, the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission this week denied Ryan Cos. a permit to demolish the Star Tribune's downtown headquarters to develop the park. The panel called for a study of the 1919 building to determine whether it deserves status as a historic landmark. It's not clear what will happen next; the commission can appeal to the City Council and can submit disputes to “subsequent judicial review,” MPR News reports.

The Star Tribune is near a deal to move to Capella Tower downtown, the Business Journal reported.

Another dust-up that needs settling is a skirmish between the city and Wells Fargo, a possible tenant and thus likely key player in the project, which wants to put giant rooftop signs on both office towers. City rules would not allow the signs.

Meanwhile, the Council must approve a financing plan for the project and doesn't yet have one to consider, Council member Lisa Goodman told the Star Tribune. The panel OK'd a general financing framework in July.

The project leapt another key hurdle earlier this month when a key panel, the city’s Planning Commission, approved a conditional-use permit to Ryan Cos.

But one key detail that needs to be finalized is a plan centered on the city borrowing roughly $65 million to help construct the parking ramp and park. Ramp revenue would help pay back that debt, according to the proposal.

Developers still hope to finalize the deal in order to break ground in the spring.

See more project renderings here.

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