Minneapolis condo project stalls over parking issues

| February 14, 2014

In a continuing sign that the U.S. economy is reviving, Minnesota-based developer Jim Stanton dusted off plans for a large condo project for downtown Minneapolis that he initially proposed in 2005. But now it’s parking issues — not the crash of the housing market — that could stall the veteran developer’s ambitious plans.

Hennepin bridge minneapolis

Minneapolis’s beautiful Hennepin Bridge over the Mississippi. A nearby condo project has been killed by parking maximums. From Shawn Hogendorf.

What Stanton has in mind: a twenty-story, 360-unit mixed-use building at the corner of Hennepin and Washington avenues. The 1.25-acre site, which the developer has yet to actually purchase, is located near the Minneapolis Central Library and across from a Whole Foods grocery and upscale apartment complex that opened last year. The proposed development, dubbed “The Eclipse” by Stanton, would be the latest contribution to the fast-growing North Loop neighborhood.

“The market in the North Loop year over year had some of the biggest price increases in all of Minneapolis,” said Joe Grunnet of the Downtown Resource Group, which specializes in selling and leasing lofts and condos in the downtown area. “The neighborhood is on fire — in a good way.”

The city may be the wet blanket that puts it out. Regulations call for 1.6 parking spaces per unit; Stanton claims he can’t sell condos at that ratio. Of potential buyers, he says, “Most of these people are empty-nesters, and a lot of them are young professionals, and they may or may not use public transportation, but people want parking stalls.”

But Stanton, who is 77, may be holding on to outdated ideas about driving trends. According to a report published by the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups last spring, Americans are driving fewer and fewer miles. As empty-nesters retire, their commuting days sunset, while the Millenial generation is showing new habits, such as using apps for public transit schedules. Other factors, such as rising gas prices and the possibility of limiting social interactions to the online environment, have also made driving less attractive.

While it’s not certain that the Planning Commission’s Committee of the Whole, which is scheduled to discuss The Eclipse at its February 20 meeting, will consider such facts as it balances existing city policies around parking with Stanton’s request for a variance, Grunnet believes it would be in Minneapolis’s best interest to support Stanton’s project.

It would “set the stage for other developers and banks to take a harder look at building owner-occupied again,” he said.

“I’m the only guy in town building condos,” Stanton echoed. Even as thousands of new apartment units have graced downtown Minneapolis since the boom began in 2011, Stanton has been the only developer active in the for-sale condominium market since the recession.

At least two officials are supportive of The Eclipse. “It would be great news for Whole Foods and help fuel additional service-level retail in the North Loop because of the additional buying power of that many residents, said Steve Cramer, CEO of the Downtown Council.

City council member Jacob Frey (Ward 3), who represents the area, also noted that the project would remove a surface parking lot, “leaving a vibrant urban landscape in its place.”

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Category: Municipal, Parking

About the Author ()

Cielo Lutino is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. She has written for such publications as the L Magazine and Portland Monthly, and her literary nonfiction has appeared in journals such as the Los Angeles Review and Cold Mountain Review.

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