Development surrounding stadium proposed

As the Vikings' old stadium gets torn down in preparation for the new one, two large-scale proposals for development surrounding the stadium are being considered.

The Vikings stadium construction is underway. Despite record-setting brutal temperatures that have made work difficult at best, the process of tearing down the Metrodome and erecting the new Vikings stadium has begun and continues on a daily basis.

The new stadium area debate is how the City of Minneapolis plans to profit from the surrounding area in what has come to be known as the Downtown East area.

Next month, city officials will have to decide between one of two significant project proposals from a rival pair of local developers – Mortenson Development and Ryan Companies.

Mortsenson, which is overseeing the construction of the new Vikings stadium, has a proposed $63 million project to construct a 300-room hotel under the established Marriott brand. The project would take about one year to complete and be a key centerpiece to events at the new stadium. Early projections state that the project would start in January 2016 and be ready for opening in January 2017.

The Ryan proposal is part of a design plan already underway. Ryan is in the middle of the Downtown East project, which will include a pair of office towers for Wells Fargo & Co. that are expected to be the workplace for approximately 5,000 employees. In addition, 200 apartment units – a growing trend in that area after years of decline and decay, Minneapolis is becoming the trendy hot spot to have an apartment or loft for 20- and 30-somethings – restaurants, bars and shops and, as promised, will include a public park that spans two current blocks.

The new proposal would include a $104 million project for constructing a 28-story apartment complex on top of the 1,600-space parking facility that is part of construction immediately surrounding the stadium that has already been approved. It would include a modest amount of bar/restaurant/retail store space. The timeframe for that project would be a tentative May 2015 start date and completion by August 2017.

Considering that both of the contestants in this apparent contest are extremely reputable (and currently employed) big players in the business world, either can be profitable and a boon to the area of Minneapolis in which their proposals are located.

But to combine Donald Trump with George Bernard Shaw, there may be a third solution. As GBS famously opined, "Some men see things as they are and ask why? Others dream things that never were and ask why not?

One project is primarily based on expanding above an already-approved parking structure and the other involves a high-rise hotel for the well-heeled attending events at the nearby stadium (a Super Bowl perhaps?), but the city could approve both projects with minor modifications and become a business climate that is aggressive and ahead of the curve in terms of shaping public opinion that the east side of Minneapolis is going to be a must-destination location.

Coming out of one of the worst economic recessions in our country's history, the Downtown East project – competing proposals aside – can be the new hot spot and, if Minneapolis decision-makers opt to plant their flag at a time prior to growing prosperity, they could rake in the ancillary revenue that a state-of-the-art stadium will attract. Significant crowds that make an on-sight hotel a must-have locale will make that project a potential city cash cow. The trendy apartments for those willing to get a "deluxe apartment in the sky-high-high" can make it a win-win for the City of Minneapolis.

One can only wonder what harvest the State of Minnesota could have made had political in-fighting not killed the Arden Hills stadium deal. Instead, a 10-block area of confined space surrounded by pre-existing infrastructure is the locale.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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