An aerial view of the Nicollet Hotel block Credit: City of Minneapolis

An aerial view of the Nicollet Hotel block Credit: City of Minneapolis

Iconic design sought for Nicollet Hotel block development

Minneapolis is launching a national search for a developer to build an “iconic” skyscraper on a 1.7-acre city-owned block at the end of Nicollet Mall.

The land is being treated with paramount importance by city planners because of its potential to connect the city’s growing downtown population to the riverfront, new green space, a future street car line and the upcoming Nicollet Mall reconstruction. A recent frenzy of nearby development has brought hundreds of new luxury apartments to area during the last year, and even more ambitious projects have been proposed as the city strives to double downtown’s population by 2025.

“We’re looking for something dramatic and iconic, a developer who is not afraid to go way outside of the box to create something truly impressive,” said Ward 3 City Council Member Jacob Frey, who represents most of downtown. “The Nicollet Hotel block is probably the sexiest parcel of land in the entire city and we want something great.”

The block used to be home to the 12-story Nicollet Hotel, which was built in 1924 and demolished in 1991. The city purchased the land in 1993 with federal transit funds and intended to build a transit hub, but after three unsuccessful attempts to attract a developer in 2002, 2004 and 2005 that plan was abandoned.

The Nicollet Hotel — Library of Congress

In 2013 the city was able to get federal transit obligations removed from the property, and now it hopes to use the land for a project that will not only add population, but improve downtown’s often-criticized public space.

“In one fell swoop we can add people to downtown, create green space, and trigger connection to the river. Designers and developers better bring their A games,” Frey wrote in an email to The Journal.

Frey said he plans on flying out to meet with prestigious developers and designers from around the country, although he wouldn’t rule out choosing a local team.

The city’s Request for Proposals (RFP) has a number of requirements. It asks for a structure or structures with “not fewer than 20 active floors in height with a mix of commercial, retail, residential, office, and hospitality uses, active street front retail, and preference for substantial integrated public/green space.”

The RFP also requires developers to accommodate one of two future street car alignments. One option shows the street car line travelling diagonally across the property, the other shows the line turning off of Nicollet along 3rd Street and rounding the edge of the property along Hennepin. Any proposal must also include space for a Traction Power Substation for the street cars and a skyway connection to the Central Library across 3rd Street.

Interested developers have until Dec. 11 to submit proposals, and city staff will make a recommendation to City Council by next April. After a developer is chosen the city hopes to finalize a term sheet and close the sale by the end of 2015.

Ben Johnson // 612-436-5088 // bjohnson@journalmpls.com // @johnsonbend