Developer's plan for Downtown East faces new obstacle

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November 21, 2013 // UPDATED 2:37 pm - November 21, 2013
By: Sarah McKenzie
Ryan Cos.' vision for Downtown East includes a new park, office towers and housing near the future Vikings stadium.
Sarah McKenzie

Developer Ryan Cos. has hit a roadblock on its path to redevelop a five-block area near the new Vikings stadium with new office tours, housing and a large park.

The city's Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) voted 8-1 on Tuesday to deny Ryan's request to demolish the Star Tribune building at 425 Portland Ave. S. to make way for its new development.

The commission noted there are "reasonable alternatives" to demolition, said John Smoley, a historian and planner with the city's Planning and Economic Development (CPED) department. Members also urged Ryan to find a new use for the building, adding it has a track record of finding creative new uses for challenging properties, such as the former Sears building on Lake Street, which is now the Midtown Exchange.

Ryan plans to appeal the HPC decision and is hoping to go before the City Council's Zoning & Planning Committee on Dec. 9 and then the full Council on Dec. 13, said Rick Collins, vice president of development for Ryan.

CPED filed a report recommending the HPC approve the demolition request as long as the building's iconic stone medallions are removed and incorporated into the proposed park along with a plaque detailing the site's history. 

Preserve Minneapolis, meanwhile, has raised objections to Ryan Cos.' request to demolish the Star Tribune. In a letter to the HPC, the board of the local preservation group wrote: "We believe that the Star Tribune building can and should be preserved and reused, not as an impediment to the proposed Downtown East development but as an integral part of it."

The developer secured a conditional use permit for its proposed $400 million development project earlier this month. Ryan's plan calls for two new office tours with about 1.5 million square feet of office space, 20,000 square feet of commercial space and 203 housing units for a five-block area between the stadium and downtown's core. Wells Fargo has been in talks with Ryan about being the anchor tenant for the project.