Project for Ramada site gains traction

Star Tribune –

Ryan Companies has signed on to help Alatus Management develop a downtown Minneapolis site bordered by Hennepin and Hawthorne Avenues and 1Oth and 11th Streets.

Rick Collins, Ryan vice president of development, said his firm will oversee construction and support development of the mixed-use project. Collins and Alatus partner Bob Lux said last week that the exact elements of the project still are being determined.

The addition of Ryan provides another developer that has experience in a variety of downtown projects. They include Target Corp., the last major office project to be built downtown, and three recent downtown hotel projects- the Chambers Hotel that opened in 2006, the Westin Minneapolis that opened last year and the W Minneapolis Foshay that is scheduled to open next month.

Lux said work to get the site ready will begin soon with the demolition of the Ramada Downtown Minneapolis at 1Oth Street and Hawthorne Avenue S. Lux bought the 196-room hotel in 2005 and closed it in December.

Alatus and an investment partner bought the other part of the site across Hawthorne from the Ramada last year. It currently has a parking lot, which will continue to operate until a development plan is formulated.

Talk of grocery store, hotel

Several months ago, Lux had discussions with Capella Education Co. about becoming an office tenant in the project. In March, the online educator announced that, instead, it would consolidate all its downtown operations and double its space at 225 South Sixth Street, where it has been a tenant for four years.

Lux declined to comment last week about recent reports of a possible Lunds grocery store in the project. Aaron Sorenson, a spokesman for Edina-based Lund Food Holdings Inc., confirmed there have been talks with Lux, but said no agreements have been reached. In 2004, Lund announced plans to build a store at 12th Street and Hennepin Avenue, but that project has languished.

A Lunds at either its own or Lux’s site would result in grocery stores bracketing both ends of downtown. On the north side of downtown a Whole Foods store is included in the plans for a retail-and-apartment project to be built at Hennepin and Washington avenues. That development is one of several apartment projects expected to boost the number of downtown residents that likely would be the main customer base for the grocery stores.

Paul Wischermann, a Twin Cities hotel developer and consultant who is working with Lux, said last week that the Alatus project is likely to include a 275-room, all-suites hotel, but said there are no signed deals yet with a hotel company. He said his Minnetonka-based firm, Wischermann Partners, would manage the hotel.

Lux has solid credentials as a downtown developer. His recent projects include work on two major condominium developments, Grant Park and Carlyle. He also owns the site of the recently closed Grandma’s restaurant on the West Bank, where he’s planning a housing development, and five downtown parking ramps purchased last year from the city.

By: Susan Feyder
Date: Jun 1, 2008