Finding financing in Elliot Park, and across the river, project heights rise and unit counts fall

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June 27, 2005 // UPDATED 1:55 pm - April 26, 2007
By: David Brauer
David Brauer

For months on the phone and in print, we've politely (we hope) cajoled Thomas Horty of Elliot Park-based Horty Elving architects to tell us what's happening with his proposed Fifth Avenue Gateway. The 20-story, 136-unit project is to rise at 505 E. Grant St. near Grant Park, but even though it received city approvals last winter, nothing much has happened since, leading to speculation the project would never be financed.

An equally polite Horty talked to us last week and said he expects to have financing "within a couple of weeks" from an out-of-state concern.

Asked - politely - about dismissive chatter that his plan was a case of an architect with a dream but no real financial oomph, Horty replied with a chuckle, "We have dreams, good buildings, but we're pretty minimal on the money side. If we were as flush as a contractor like Opus or Ryan, we'd have no problems."

The ever-entertaining Steve Minn, whose projects wax and wane with lunar regularity, has decided to bust through the five-story barrier at his 600 SE Main St. project and go eight to 10. That requires a conditional-use permit and lots of work with neighborhood and city folks. Minn was already talking to neighbors about design issues, but now the public has a bit heavier hammer.

Minn's Flour Sack Flats Phase II, 520 SE 2nd St., which climbed out of the stalled category, is still a go. Minn says he'll begin tearing down old structures on the site by mid-July, and open up a marketing center there for the first phase of Flour Sack Flats, 521 SE 2nd St.

For the last year, many developers have been boosting their unit counts and shrinking unit sizes. The most recent example is the so-called "Parcel E" development planned for Chicago & Washington avenues near the new Guthrie Theater, which went from 95 units to 124 in the same 125,000 square feet.

The approach allows a lower price point within more buyers' reach. (Although it's all relative; just a few short months ago, real estate tribespeople breathed heavy about anything priced over $300 a square foot; now, there are several projects that easily top $400. Who ever thought oil prices and condo prices would track together?)

Anyway, what goes up also comes down. At Cobalt - the high-profile Lund's-inclusive project in the Nicollet Island/East Bank neighborhood - developers have actually shrunk the unit count from 105 to 98 units as several buyers have decided to purchase adjoining units and combine them. It\'s not unprecedented, of course, but it shows that every trend has its counterreaction.

If you thought the rendering of the new The Nine condominums in the Strib last week looked vaguely Gehry-esque, know that architect James Dayton worked for Gehry eight years ago. The nine condo units (get it?) will rise at 605 2nd Ave. S., had carried the working title of The Jewel.

While we are not as rhapsodic as the Strib's Linda Mack about the design - the street-level walls look cinderblock bleak - we, too, applaud nontraditional architecture added to the Downtown residential mix. (That doesn't mean everything works, though!)

The oft-delayed 607 Lofts on Washington finally cracked open the champagne last week as closings began. Developer Bill Knudson said eight units remain available in the 30-unit project at 607 Washington Ave. S.

For people who can't get enough of Environmental Impact Statements, a consultant hired by the city will try to separate the meaningful from the mundane about the massive Pillsbury "A" Mill project before the city's Historic Preservation Commission June 28, and the Planning Commission June 30.