Redevelopment plan for stadium area revealed

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May 14, 2013 // UPDATED 1:02 pm - July 20, 2013
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie
$400 million vision includes new two-block park

Developer Ryan Cos. has unveiled a $400 million, five-block redevelopment proposal for the Vikings stadium area — a plan that includes a new two-block park.

The project would dramatically alter the urban landscape on downtown’s east side. It includes two 20-story office towers with more than 1 million square feet of office space, 40,000-square-feet of retail and 300 units of housing. The park, referred to as the Yard, would serve as the centerpiece. The area set for the transformation is currently owned by the Star Tribune.

“The dogs days are over for downtown east,” said Mayor R.T. Rybak at a news conference earlier today near the redevelopment site — a portion of downtown dominated by surface parking lots.

Once completed, it will be one of the largest redevelopments in the city's history.

The announcement of the redevelopment project comes just one day after HKS Architects Inc. released the design for the new Vikings stadium — a bold structure with a glass rooftop and massive glass rotating doors. 

Rick Collins, vice president of development at Ryan, said the developer is in negotiations with Wells Fargo to serve as the anchor tenant for the office towers.

The Star Tribune would be displaced by the redevelopment. Michael Klingsensmith, publisher and CEO of the Star Tribune Media Company, said a search is underway for a new home for the newspaper. Several sites near the central business district are being considered.

Rybak said the project will be financed without using tax-increment financing (TIF). However, the city plans to use its bonding authority to finance the construction of a new parking ramp, which would be owned by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA). Ryan Cos. is going to bid on the parking ramp project.

If Ryan wins the bid, it plans to pay off the bond debt service for the first 10 years. For the next 20 years, a mix of parking revenues, money from the MSFA and other city funds would be tapped to cover debt service payments.

Rybak said the project is anticipated to generate $3.5 million in property tax revenue in its first year.

Collins said Ryan plans to finalize the purchase of the Star Tribune parcels by the end of the year. The developer hopes to break ground early next year.

The vision for the Yard, the new downtown park, is an amenity downtown residents and community leaders have been dreaming about for years.

It would occupy two blocks bound by Park Avenue, 5th Avenue, 4th and 5th streets. On Vikings game days, it will be a home base for fans. On non-game days, it would host a variety of events — neighborhood festivals, soccer games and other special events.

“It should be a front yard for residents,” Rybak said.

The office towers will be designed to accommodate between 5,000 and 6,000 workers, Collins said.

Wells Fargo is in expansion mode and had been considering suburban locations before it started talking with city officials and Ryan about the stadium area site, Rybak said.

The new development area would also be connected to downtown’s core by new skyways via the Haaf Parking Ramp near City Hall.

Collins also said an estimated 2,000 union trades workers would be employed during the construction of the office towers and housing.

City Council President Barb Johnson said she was thrilled to see the new Vikings stadium spark redevelopment so quickly — especially given the fact that the Metrodome failed to revitalize downtown’s east side.

“It only took a day,” she said.

The proposal will now work its way through the city-approval process.

Ryan Cos., a developer based downtown, has worked on several major projects throughout the city, including the Midtown Exchange, which once housed a retail and distribution center for Sears. Today it's home to Allina Hospitals and Clinics, the Midtown Global Market, a Sheraton Hotel and housing.

Judith Yates Borger, a downtown east resident and member of the Stadium Implementation Committee, said she thinks the Ryan project "is a bigger deal than the stadium."

"There may be residents who will never set foot in the stadium but everyone in the vicinity will be touched by the park. If all, or even most, of the plans for downtown east come to fruition my neighbors  and I  will be delighted," she said. 

Carletta Sweet, vice president of the East Downtown Council, said she's optimistic about the future of the area given the proposals unveiled this week. 

"Overall I am satisfied with the Vikings stadium design; you could tell that a lot of innovative thought and effort has gone into it and I hope it will function as promised and fit well into the surrounding community," she said. "And I'm definitely pleased for the Downtown East community that Ryan Cos. was able to work out a deal with the Star Tribune. We've been grappling with how to redevelop the many surface parking lots in this area for decades and now the tide is turning and hopefully this will spur even more new development that will result in greater economic vitality."