High Rise Condo Development: The Future of Downtown Minneapolis?

Living in the Clouds: Elevens Condos Will Soar 41 StoriesAt 41 stories tall, Eleven will become the tallest residential building in Minneapolis, dwarfing St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi that it will overlook. Its condos, beginning at $900,000 for a 1,400 square-foot unit, will be among the city's priciest. But they will be unique, according to Mike Ryan, market president of Ryan Cos., the developer that is partnering with Luigi Bernardi's Arcadia to construct the tower. Ryan calls the units the equivalent of "a single-family home" in the city's downtown core rather than "a really nice apartment."

Construction was slated to begin this month.

The building reflects Bernardi's vision for "something different." A Twin Cities area developer for more than 40 years, he and his father originally worked in the clothing business before veering off into real estate. His father once owned more than 5,000 apartments, but the son built his Edina-based company in Hennepin County on shopping centers and medical office buildings, more recently shifting attention to multi-family ventures as well as a 10,000-square-foot retail center in Edina. He and his wife, now empty nesters, currently live in downtown Minneapolis. Bernardi says he was intrigued by the prospect of luxury urban core housing when he realized that recently completed apartments seem to "all look the same." When the land that Eleven will occupy became available, he seized the opportunity to move in a new direction.

The New Appeal of Urban Luxury

Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York led a team of five additional local architects to develop the interiors, giving buyers a choice of three design options. Most units feature corner 14X14-foot balconies that will have overhead heat lamps to counteract the chill of Minnesota winters. An outdoor "amenity deck" will feature a 25-yard lap pool, children's splash pad, firepits and yoga area on the stepped-back eighth floor of the building.

Although floor plan and unit size details of the new condo residences are scarce, it is said that some of the urban condos will stretch across an entire floor, and a single penthouse will occupy the top two floors of the building. However, the building's footprint is relatively modest, with actual square footage only 12,500 on lower floors, scaled back to 6,800 square feet per floor at the top.

Sales have already begun, from a center installed last May in Ryan's office building near the U.S. Bank Stadium. There's a scale model of the entire building, as well as a furnished model condo and full-size renditions of two kitchens. Sales center staff can, with the push of a button, light up any unit in the model building and then, with the help of modern technology, project a virtual view from any unit onto a television screen in the sales office.

The 5,500 square-foot sales center, completed at a cost of $1.5 million, is almost as exciting as the condo tower itself, and it represents a first for this area. According to early reports, the reaction has been very encouraging, with the pool of interested future residents compising a mix of "downsizing boomers," younger people who want to live downtown, and current urban dwellers looking for something new, according to a spokesman for the Lakes Sotheby's sales team headed by John Wanninger.

Looking to the Future

Presale of Eleven's 118 units began in May, even though the first luxury condos won't be delivered until sometime in 2021. Bernardi, who sparked the initial idea for the residential tower, is among the first buyers. His new home, he says, will be on the 36th floor.

When complete, the building at West River Parkway and 11th Ave. will stand 550 feet tall, and will also include ground-level retail space and, perhaps, a restaurant.

Carl Runck, Ryan's director of real estate development, says that the project has "incredible momentum." Another planned condo tower on the other side of the river experienced similar enthusiastic response from prospective buyers when, in December 2018, it began preselling condo units in a building named Alia, to be constructed at 200 Central Ave. SE.

It had been in planning stages for five years, but embroiled in a legal dispute with neighbors for more than a year. Even though a court decision found in favor of the developer, Alatus, the project is now on hold once more. The latest word is that a search for a new financing partner is underway, but there is no timeline and little current information is available. Also conceived as a luxury condo tower, Alia was to be a building of 40-42 stories, with more than 200 condo units ranging in price between $350,000 and $4 million.

For now, the future of local high-rise residential development is housed in Eleven, but it remains to be seen what other projects might follow in the wake of this luxury upsurge in the downtown core.

Condo development on this scale is new to the Twin Cities, and the effect is yet to be measured.

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