‘Tremendous’ progress for Ryan’s Downtown East development

The first of two Wells Fargo office towers within the Downtown East development in Minneapolis are scheduled to get a certificate of occupancy in January. Staff photo: Bill Klotz

‘Tremendous’ progress for Ryan’s Downtown East development

By: Brian Johnson December 22, 2015 4:28 pm

After two years and seven months of construction, Ryan Cos. US Inc.’s signature $450 million Downtown East development is racing to the finish line involving a five-block area near the U.S. Bank Stadium site.

As is the case with any major project, some unexpected things have cropped up during construction, including the discovery of old foundations and “urban fill” under Fourth Street, said Tony Barranco, vice president of development for Minneapolis-based Ryan.

But overall, “our progress has been tremendous,” he said of the 12.5-acre area northeast of Fifth Avenue South and Fifth Street.

Downtown East is connected figuratively and literally to the new $1.09 billion Vikings stadium, which is why the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority invited Barranco to give an update at last Friday’s board meeting.

Anchored by two 17-story Wells Fargo office towers, the Downtown East project also will include 26,000 square feet of retail space, a 4.2-acre public park, a 1,600-space MSFA-owned parking ramp, skyway connections, an apartment complex, a hotel and a four-story office building.

Including public components, Downtown East represents north of $500 million worth of new development within a once unremarkable eastern part of downtown Minneapolis, according to Ryan.

Heading into 2016, the development has a full head of steam, starting with the six-story public parking ramp, scheduled to open on Jan. 1. The ramp will offer parking for the football stadium and Wells Fargo employees.

The ramp is at Fourth Street and Chicago Avenue, directly northwest of the football stadium, with entrances available on Chicago, Third and Park avenues.

Up next are the Wells Fargo towers on a site bordered by Fourth Street, Fifth Avenue, Third Street and Park Avenue. One building is west of Portland Avenue; the other is east of Portland Avenue.

The westernmost building will have a certificate of occupancy in January and the first occupants will arrive in late February, Barranco said. The east tower will open about 90 days later.

Skyway connections will link the parking ramp and office towers to U.S. Bank Stadium, which is 85 percent complete.

Skyway connections are complete, but they won’t be fully open to the public until the connected buildings receive their certificates of occupancy, Barranco said.

Besides foot traffic, the skyway levels will offer 15,000 square feet of retail space, including a Wells Fargo bank branch. Barranco said Ryan will soon be able to go public with three or four additional leases.

Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the MSFA, said the skyway connections played a big role in the successful bids to bring the 2018 Super Bowl and the 2019 NCAA Final Four basketball tournament to the new stadium.

“A big part of our success was being able to show them that now the stadium, in those winter months, has a climate-controlled walking connection to the stadium,” she said.

Residential construction includes 195 units in three separate buildings, known collectively as the Edition. Pre-leasing is in progress and a model unit recently opened, Barranco said.

All three apartment buildings will be finished by July 1.

Meanwhile, construction just started on Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group’s 164-room Radisson Red Hotel on Third Street between Park and Portland avenues. In October, Ryan sold the parcel at 619 Third St. S. for $3.6 million to the Carlson Cos.-affiliated entity.

The hotel, about a block northwest of the soon-to-open MSFA parking ramp, is also to the north of one of the Wells Fargo towers.

Deane Bruner, vice president of business development for Carlson Hospitality, said it will be the closest hotel connected to the U.S. Bank Stadium. The project is “coming out of the ground,” and the hotel will be open in the fourth quarter of 2016, Bruner said.

Bruner said the hotel will be “millennial-focused” – not from an age standpoint, but as a mindset. Customers will be able to check in and order food, among other things, with their personal devices, he said.

“It’s BYOD – bring your own device,” Bruner said, adding that about 7,000 feet square feet of retail space within the hotel is planned for a “destination-type restaurant.”

As Finance & Commerce reported in October, the $22 million Commons Park project started to take shape in August, when crews began to tear down the former Star Tribune headquarters at 425 Portland Ave. S. to make way for the park.

The goal is to build as much of the park as possible by mid- to late summer, but fundraising is still an ongoing challenge. Most recently, Ryan Cos., Wells Fargo and the city of Minneapolis agreed in August to contribute a combined $7 million to the park.

Minneapolis City Council Member Jacob Frey said in an interview that the park will not be “a regular old neighborhood park with swings and a baseball diamond,” but rather a major gathering place.

“The planning, design and ultimate construction of the Commons and other development in Downtown East is going extremely well,” he added. “The end result will be, I think, a brilliant transformation of an entire region of downtown.”

At Friday’s meeting, Barranco put in a strong plug for its new four-story office building to rise at South Third Street and Fifth Avenue South in the shadow of the Wells Fargo towers. Ryan purchased the site in 2014 as part of a $30.5 million transaction with the Star Tribune newspaper.

Ryan announced in late November that it plans to move its corporate headquarters into the 172,000-square-foot structure, to be known as the Millwright Building. Construction is expected to start this spring and end in spring 2017.

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