Block E sold to Alatus

Profit center or money hole?

Profit center or money hole?

Bob Lux and his real estate development firm Alatus evidently look at Block E in downtown Minneapolis these days and see something that others don't: A cash register.

The company confirmed over the weekend that it has completed a deal to purchase the troubled entertainment complex across for an undisclosed price from Union Labor Life Insurance Co.

"There is a vibrancy in downtown Minneapolis with Target Field, the theatre district and restaurants, and Block E is at the center of it all," Lux said in a statement.

Maybe. Anyone who's wandered around downtown during Twins home games this summer can see the hum he's talking about -- bar and restaurant crowds spill out onto the street.

But those crowds weren't around earlier to help some Block E tenants out of the red. Borders Books and Bellanote bailed out two years ago. GameWorks closed its doors in March. Hooters filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April.

Block E opened in 2002, after a $134 million investment by McCaffery Interest of Chicago and Hard Rock Cafe, and $38.5 million from taxpayers. The Hard Rock Cafe, Graves 601 hotel and 15-screen AMC movie theater remain in place. Kieran's Irish Pub moved into the Bellanote space earlier in the spring -- just in time to coral baseball fans looking for grub and suds before wandering down the street to Target Field. And Alatus says it's already entertained a few prospective tenant inquiries for the complex borded by Hennepin and First avenues, and 6th and 7th streets.