By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Locally, Hines has been referred to as "the biggest private landlord in downtown Minneapolis" and owns some 40 percent of the "Class A" space downtown, most notably the Wells Fargo Center, U.S. Bank Plaza (formerly the Pillsbury Center), and other major office towers. Hennepin County records value some of the Hines properties at $100.7 million, $89 million, and $11.7 million.
There has been talk of grandiose plans--mostly from Pogin--for anywhere from 1,000 (with stadium) to 3,000 (without) condo units, along with potential retail and office space that would transform the suddenly burgeoning North Loop neighborhood. But local Hines rep Chopp is less than forthcoming about details, saying that the plans are in very early stages. "We don't know if we'll do office or residential or maybe even a hotel," Chopp says, adding that there are swaths of land in the area owned by the county and the city that Hines would like to get control of. "And we're less sure of a stadium."
Both Chopp and Pogin point to the passage of the Northstar funding this legislative session as a key turn of events, guaranteeing that the area will be a transit hub. Pogin and Lambrecht's vacant lots are suddenly more valuable than ever.
It's a fact not lost on Opat, who still holds out hope for a ballpark. "They can inflate the value if they really have a plan for it,"' Opat notes, hinting that the county might use eminent domain rights should the cost spiral out of control. "If they forgo the opportunity to have a ballpark, it would be a foolish choice."
That's why it's essential for Hines and the landowners to come up with a plan as quickly as possible. Chopp says that the city's master plan for the area is the "model" for what they're considering, while Pogin says a two-year plan, complete with budget, is nearly completed. Is this a ploy to avoid eminent domain? "Oh, absolutely," Pogin responds, adding, "It's always a lose when we go through a condemnation."
As for Minn, a relatively disinterested observer, he sees the strategy benefiting both the county and the developers. "The Hennepin County commissioners can make a public panic by saying eminent domain is the only way to get the land," Minn asserts, adding that condemnation is a costly process. "Then they can justify whatever figure they pay for it. It's a fair negotiation tactic for both sides."