Downtown Development Takes Another Step Forward
The Park Nicollet project's financing is back in order. The Johnson Building site could see improvements, too.
Development of the former Park Nicollet site is back on track—and staff continues to search for ways to use the development to drive traffic to Hopkins’ downtown.
Developer Klodt Inc. told council Tuesday it will partner with a real estate and property management company to share the financing load. The new company will buy and manage the rental housing Klodt builds, which will allow the developer to finance land acquisition and construction.
The shared responsibilities are necessary because one of the company’s owners experienced health problems that reduced the amount of money available for the project. In September, the city gave Klodt a two-month extension to get its financing in order.
The project should now see planning approval in March and groundbreaking by midsummer, said Kersten Elverum, the city’s director of economic development and planning.
Planners envision the Park Nicollet site, located at Eighth Avenue South and First Street South, as a key part of the city’s downtown development efforts that will entice Southwest Light Rail riders into the central district.
(Click here for a guided tour of the project.)
An art community
The city is still seeking ways to create the kind of activity around the development that will draw people into Hopkins. The mixed-use project was intended to have retail shops on the ground floors and living space on the upper ones, but multiple developers have told Hopkins the current market is not welcoming to retailers.
Klodt proposed ground floor units that would include so called live/work spaces for people who work out of their homes and need a place to welcome customers, but planners didn’t think that made the most of the location’s potential.
The city has since sent a letter of inquiry to a national endowment called ArtPlace, that might allow the ground floor units to be used for art-related uses—such as gallery, studio or rehearsal space.
Elverum said such a use would take advantage of Hopkins’ rich history with the arts.
ArtPlace will notify the city in January if it would like Hopkins to submit a full grant application.
Regardless of what happens with ArtPlace, staff will continue to brainstorm ways to make the most of the project, Elverum said.
“It’s just really asking them to drill down a little bit more to a specific user,” she said.
The Johnson Building
This week, council members also got a look at a proposal for the Johnson Building—one of the most important sites to maximize light rail potential.
The Johnson Building is an office and warehouse space at 810 First St. S. Planners want a project built right up to Excelsior Boulevard to shrink the visual distance between the light rail station and the north side of Excelsior.
Ideally, the site would have some bustling use that gives riders the impression of a busy downtown district. The city has even talked about some iconic entry to Hopkins' downtown on the property—possibly a cornerstone, gateway or other type of streetscape directing riders to the central district.
Building owner Kit Dahl told the council about a two-phase project that would begin by demolishing the warehouse and replacing it with retail and office space.
Staff felt the project could build on the efforts to transform Eighth Avenue into a gateway to the downtown.
The proposal is still in its earliest stages, though. The city would like to see some additional details in the proposal—including a purchase option for the city if the second phase of the project isn’t completed by a specific date.
As it stands, council members expressed sufficient interest that architects know what the city is looking for and can come back with images to show at the next talk, Elverum said.
It’s not yet known when that talk would take place.
(Click here to learn about the key light rail sites.)