Developer says condo project's viability tied to parking

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February 3, 2014 // UPDATED 9:32 am - February 6, 2014
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

NORTH LOOP — A developer’s plans to revive a 360-unit condo project at Hennepin & Washington hinge on securing approvals from the city to increase the number of parking units allowed for a project of its size.

The Planning Commission’s Committee of the Whole is scheduled to the discuss the proposal at its Feb. 20 meeting, said Janelle Widmeier, a senior city planner.

Veteran developer Jim Stanton, owner of Coon Rapids-based Shamrock Development, is considering building two 20-story buildings — a proposal he first floated in 2005. He has not yet acquired the land for the development or formally submitted an application for the project to the city.

An outline of the project presented to the Planning Commission calls for 759 parking spaces for the project, which would go underground below the towers. Shamrock would need a variance to allow for the extra parking spaces because it exceeds the amount allowed by the city’s zoning code.

Luke Kleckner, a lead sales person for Shamrock projects, said condo buyers in the market are looking for units with two parking spaces.

Shamrock’s Stonebridge Lofts — a condo project under construction near Gold Medal Park — has buyers for 123 of its 164 units, Kleckner said. Price points range from the mid-$200,000 to more than $1 million.

The goal is try to replicate the success of Stonebridge with the Eclipse. All of the other residential developments going up downtown are rentals.

Shamrock also developed the Bridgewater condos in the Mill District and several projects in the North Loop.

Fritz Kroll, a downtown real estate agent, said Stanton has good timing.

“I don’t know of any competition he will have for new construction for-sale housing,” he said. “There is pent up demand and a lot of people like buying new and making their own selections. … It’s exciting to see so much under construction downtown, and the more that gets built the more people want to live down here. 2013 was a great year for the downtown real estate market, and I think 2014 will be even better.”

Joe Grunnet, founder of the Downtown Resource Group, which specializes in selling and leasing downtown condos and lofts, said Stanton has a proven track record.

“His two projects will set the stage for other developers and banks to take a harder look at building owner occupied again,” he said.

The Eclipse would go up near the Central Library and across the street from the new 222 Hennepin development — an upscale apartment project with a new Whole Foods grocery store. It’s on the edge of the fast-growing North Loop neighborhood.

“The market in the North Loop year over year had some of the biggest price increases in all of Minneapolis,” he said. “The neighborhood is on fire — in a good way — there is such demand for quality condos and lofts that now we sell almost a third of our listings off the MLS (multiple listing service).”

The proposed design for the Eclipse shows a dark glassy building. There would be street-level spaces for retail, a landscaped plaza on the northeast corner of the site and a rooftop garden on the fifth floor.

The site is currently home to a surface parking lot and open space near the Dolphin Staffing building. No buildings would be demolished, according to the proposal. 

The owner of the InterPark parking lot at 4th & Hennepin — a couple of blocks from the proposed Eclipse project — is also seeking redevelopment ideas for the parcel, according to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. 

When proposed in 2005, Shamrock had planned two phases for the Eclipse development. The first phase called for a 26-story tower and a 32-story tower for the second phase. Overall, the plan was for 506 condos with eight parking levels and 32,730 square feet of commercial space, including a drive-through bank.

A noteworthy amenity planned for the Eclipse a room with a golf simulator allowing up to four people at a time to enjoy a virtual game of golf.

The ambitious project was later shelved when the housing market tanked.

Reaction to the revived plans for the Eclipse have been mostly positive. Some people on social media, however, have criticized the proposed design.

“If it happens, it certainly will be positive for downtown,” said new Downtown Council CEO Steve Cramer. “It adds density to that area, building on what Ryan was able to develop and successfully market across Washington. It would be great news for Whole Foods, and help fuel additional service-level retail in the North Loop because of the additional buying power of that many residents.”

City Council Member Jacob Frey (Ward 3), who represents the area, is also supportive of the project. “We are taking a surface parking lot and leaving a vibrant urban landscape in its place. This will be an excellent project.”

Hennepin Theatre Trust CEO Tom Hoch, who is spearheading efforts to create a new Hennepin Cultural District, said he’s pleased to see plans for more residents on the street.

“More residential units right on Hennepin Avenue will transform this street and our downtown by filling in the gaps created by surface parking lots and will foster the density and connective tissue we so badly need,” he said. “I hope this project continues the positive momentum created by Ryan’s 222 Hennepin project.”

Reach Sarah McKenzie at smckenzie@mnpubs.com and on Twitter @smckenzie21