Development update // Armory owner eyes Elliot Park property

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December 21, 2009 // UPDATED 11:02 am - December 21, 2009
By: Michelle Bruch
Michelle Bruch
The owner of the Armory is looking to buy a nearly-empty building and an adjacent parking lot in Elliot Park.

Doug Hoskin said he has a purchase agreement for the building at 609 S. 10th St., and he hopes to close on the sale by year’s end. Until recently, the building was home to the e.p. atelier coffee shop.

“Right now I’m interested in bringing in some tenants,” Hoskin said. “Beyond that, I’ll look at starting to work on longer-term development plans for the rest of the site. It’s difficult to say when or what that development may be.”

New occupants are starting to breathe life into a block that entered foreclosure three years ago. The foreclosure came about when developers bought up land there piece by piece and unsuccessfully attempted to redevelop the site into condo towers. The development plans prompted a school and an art gallery to leave the block, but in recent months, an economic development company and several small businesses have moved back in to buildings there.

Hoskin said he wants to invest in Elliot Park because he thinks the properties are “intriguing.” He recently discussed his plans with the neighborhood’s Building, Land Use and Housing committee.

David Fields, Elliot Park’s community development coordinator, said BLUH members aren’t content to see surface parking lots stay as they are, and they hope new development will truly take shape.

“[Hoskin is] saying all the right things, but in this [economic] environment, who knows how fast anything can happen?” Fields said.

Dayton envisions restaurant in former Marvel Rack building

Entrepreneur Eric Dayton is envisioning a rooftop deck and a restaurant of his own design in the former Marvel Rack Manufacturing building at 200 N. 1st St.

He expects construction to start this spring, with an opening date expected a year later.

“The rough concept is to have a restaurant and retail on the lower floors, private dining and event space on the second floor, and then an outdoor space up top,” Dayton said. “I’m developing the restaurant and retail concepts myself, as opposed to seeking tenants.”

Dayton bought the building last year and postponed renovating it while he worked toward an MBA at Stanford University. Prior to Stanford, Dayton worked as an analyst for Target Corp. He also spent six months doing volunteer social work in Chile, and he was a member of the Arctic Transect 2004 dogsled expedition.

Flour Exchange owners hopeful for skyway system hook-in

The owners of the Flour Exchange building at 310 4th Ave. S. want to hook into the skyway system.

The building’s new skyway wouldn’t be visible from the street. It would connect an enlarged window opening in the Flour Exchange building to the Federal Courthouse on the same block.

The skyway connection has been a long time in coming. When the courthouse was constructed in 1997, it was built to accommodate a future skyway to the Flour Exchange.

Al Ofstehage, a representative of the Flour Exchange building, said the skyway construction is important, even during this tough economic time.

“Either you’re part of the system or you’re not,” he said. “It’s a major attraction to bring in new tenants.”

The building owners are presenting their final drawings to the city for a building permit. They hope to begin construction as soon as the weather breaks next year.

Warehouse District guidelines being drafted

Anticipating development pressure from the new Twins stadium, the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission has finished drafting new design guidelines for the Warehouse District.

One major revision to the city’s guidelines places more importance on the sunken rail yards that run through the North Loop in an area between Washington and North 5th Street. The guidelines state that the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line must remain open and must not be decked over by buildings, although skyways and bridges over the tracks are fine. The height of new buildings should not exceed 20 stories in the rail yard area, according to the draft. But developers can try to make the case for taller heights by proving the height fits within the district.

The rail lines once emptied into a booming wholesaling industry, with six different rail companies converging in the Warehouse District. The business was so profitable that even basic wholesaling warehouses were built with the ornate details we see today.

Proposed design guidelines throughout the rest of the historic district would preserve alleys, old storefronts, loading docks and water towers. Old tracks and brick or wood pavers would be preserved on the streets, provided that they are not too deteriorated to repair.

New trees in the Warehouse District would not a problem, so long as they don’t block building entrances. Buildings must be well maintained so as to prevent demolition due to neglect.

A public hearing on the guidelines is expected to take place in January.

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