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Twin 29 story condos


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By Sarah McKenzie

Two new proposed 29-story condo towers near the New Central Library promise to accelerate Hennepin Avenue's revival.

The "21st Century Towers" would rise above a new drive-through 21st Century Bank at 240 Hennepin Ave. S. -- just northwest of the library block according to a project proposal submitted to the city Aug. 6. The site's current structures, are an unused Food and Drug Administration Building and Dolphin Staffing, 258 Hennepin Ave. S.

City Planner Jim Voll, who is reviewing the proposal, said the 317-unit project would likely go before the Planning Commission Sept. 13.

Thomas Dolphin, president and CEO of Blaine-based 21st Century Bank, owns the site. The estimated market value of the two parcels is $2.75 million, according to Hennepin County property records.

The project would occupy the Hennepin Avenue frontage and 60,000 square feet of the block also bordered by Washington and 1st avenues north and North 3rd Street. The block also houses the McKesson Building and Miller Meester Advertising, Inc.'s headquarters, both of which would remain.

The project's hexagon-shaped white towers would be linked to the bank and other offices spaces at street level.

The project is a partnership of Downtown-based Bruce Knutson Architects, 540 N. 3rd St., and Coon Rapids-based Shamrock Development, which is headed by Jim Stanton. Stanton has several North Loop residential projects under his belt, including the Rock Island Lofts, Lindsay Lofts and 212 Lofts.

The developers, who did not return calls for comment, are expected to meet with the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association's (DMNA) Land Use Committee Sept. 7, according to DMNA Chair Tom Hoch.

The project's first phase would demolish the FDA building, which housed a laboratory between 1962 and 2003. In its place would be the drive-through bank, a six-level, 289-stall parking garage (with two underground levels) and a 149-unit, 29-story condo tower.

The condos, ranging from 1,200 to 2,500 square feet, would start on the tower's sixth floor, which would feature a rooftop grass plaza.

In the second phase, crews would raze the Dolphin Staffing building and build a 168-unit, 29-story tower. The units would be roughly the same size as the condos in the other tower. The tower's basement and first five levels would have a 327-unit parking garage and maintenance facility, according to the proposal.

At an Aug. 10 DMNA meeting, board members spoke briefly about the proposal. Hoch, who heads the Historic Theatre Group that manages the Hennepin Avenue theaters, said DMNA would have to look at the 21st Century Towers' impact on traffic, among other things.

A more in-depth discussion will take place next month.

"On first glance, this appears to be a very exciting project that will continue to build the residential base of Downtown," he said. "I think the DMNA board will be especially interested in seeing that this project contributes to a positive pedestrian environment. Some ways of doing this are including as much green space and as many trees as feasible, installing attractive, pedestrian-scale lighting and constructing a building with a sufficient setback from the street to provide walking and breathing room."

The proposal comes as Downtown is in the midst of a major residential construction boom. Several condo conversions are in the works, along with plans for new towers in Elliot Park, Loring Park, the East Bank and Downtown's riverfront, such as the 39-story luxury condo tower The Carlyle at South 1st Street & 3rd Avenue South.

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