The Sons of Norway building on West Lake Street in Uptown will be razed, replaced with a mixed-use development that features retail space below multiple stories of high-end rentals.
That’s the plan from development partners Ryan Companies and Weidner Homes. Though the scope has yet to be finalized, Ryan Vice President Tony Barranco has described what’s coming as a “premium product” with construction starting as early as next summer.
“It’s not intended to be a pool party, millennial-focused place,” he told the Southwest Journal in August.
The development partners are still working out the details, but the residential component of the project will include communal green space and units designed with fabulous living in mind, according to Barranco.
It’s a gutsy bet. Uptown is ground zero for millennial living in the Twin Cities, a glass and concrete Canaan, with many apartment buildings that look and cost about the same. At Revel, for instance, two bedrooms rent for about $2,800, with amenities like a dog wash and a rooftop lounge.
“We certainly want to develop a project that’s seen as best in class,” says Barranco, “and accordingly, to command fairly high rents.”
Is the moment upon us when older working professionals and suburban empty nesters want to live alongside Uptown hipsters?
Yes and no, thinks Steve Minn, a developer with 15 years of experience whose projects have included condos at Eat Street Flats.
“I do think there are parts of Uptown that are ready to be multi-generational. The dining and recreational amenities and access to downtown are all pluses for that age group,” he says. “[The Sons of Norway site] could be kind of a stretch, because it’s noisy and you experience a little more traffic than the Baby Boomers group might be used to. But if done correctly, it could compete with the property overlooking Lake Calhoun.”
The Lakes might be closest thing to what’s being planned for Uptown. Its one- and two-bedroom units are pitched as “an extraordinary alignment of savior-vivre and urban flairs” filling eight floors.
In contrast to Uptown’s The Walkway, with its two bedrooms costing around $2,800 and a communal hot tub overlooking Lake Street, the Lakes offers custom cabinetry, 24/7 concierge service, and two-bedroom rentals going for about $6,800 a month.
The Lakes is also on the west side of Lake Calhoun, which feels like a universe removed from the energy of Uptown’s Cowboy Slim’s or Bar Louie, less than a mile away.
Messages left at the offices of Lakes’ owner Greystar were not returned. But last fall, it was reported that only 11 of the 90 luxury apartments had been rented.
According to Sam Radbil of Abodo, an apartment website that tracks markets nationwide, selling luxury in untested urban areas is a crapshoot.
“What we’ve seen happen in Austin is the prices of these luxury apartments built in trendy, millennial-focused places is when these buildings went up, the prices initially went up. But a year later, the prices are coming down because they’re struggling to fill them,” he says. “It’s a very difficult sell to get somebody to downsize from their suburban home to go into Uptown to live where it’s mostly people ages 19 to 25.”
He likens luxury apartments in Uptown to an arranged marriage. Developers might covet it. Research says there’s a market. Yet it remains “an experiment” into foreign occupied territory.
“It’s hard to know if an area like Uptown and luxury apartments will be a fit,” says Radbil. “Young working professionals and millennials are not the same market as those who have been working for 30 years and want to downsize, the drivers of that luxury market.…
“Downtown, I think, will have more of an appeal. Maybe even the North Loop. I think the move for luxury rentals is downtown, where older professionals and those who’ve already downsized might live. Uptown is bars and it’s loud.”
Minn sees that same issue as the wildcard.
“That stretch of Lake Street can have some noise, loud traffic, and there’s a possibility of seeing people do things in public that might surprise those coming from the suburbs,” he says.
Ryan’s Barranco would disagree: “I don’t think it would be appropriate to say it would be geared to any one minimal [demographic].”
They will come because they all want to enjoy the same kind of lifestyle.
“What we found is residences in our communities, whether younger or older, they’re all active and they’re kind of bound together by areas that are active and exciting with fun stuff to do...,” he says. “I think that we will have some younger renters and some older renters. I think there will be a wide mix. What will bind the community are all things Uptown.”
And their ability to pay the rent.
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