Sale of city parking ramps could lead to more housing and retail

by Anna Ewart

In a city like Minneapolis, parking can make or break a neighborhood’s success.

A privately owned company is planning to develop new housing and retail additions near Minneapolis parking ramps after the City Council approved the sale of eight parking ramps for a total of $88 million.

Recently, the city finalized the $65 million sale of five of those – Seven Corners, Downtown East, Centre Village, Loring and Gateway – to Alatus Management, LLC.

Bob Lux, managing partner of Alatus, said his company is beginning to study what would be the best use of property in the two areas that will be developed.

Housing and street-level retail are being considered for the area adjacent to the Seven Corners ramp, which is near the West Bank on Washington Avenue, he said.

“Cedar-Riverside in general is an incredibly well-located area that has been overlooked for development for the last 20 years,” Lux said.

The area near the Downtown East ramp might also grow to accommodate housing, retail, offices and a hotel, he said.

Mike Christenson, the city’s director of community development and economic planning, said the development will benefit the city.

He said the ramps will be “wrapped” in aesthetically pleasing residential structures, as was done with St. Anthony Main apartments.

Christenson said a post-Sept. 11 recession created a parking fund deficit when around 25,000 jobs were lost, and traffic in parking lots and ramps was greatly reduced.

The money made from the sale of the ramps will go toward reducing that deficit, Christenson said.

Also, the city will receive more money from property taxes because of the sale, since Alatus is privately owned.

Alatus works with the University to determine what types of development and housing it needs, Lux said.

Kendre Turonie, coordinator for student and community relations, said the University is interested in leasing near campus and developing housing suitable for graduate students.

“Research shows students don’t really want to live with a whole lot of other people, but everybody keeps building these four-bedroom shared living spaces,” she said.

Lux said the purchase of the five ramps is a good long-term real estate investment for Alatus. He said ramp owners do not directly control parking costs.

“The market determines what the rates are,” he said.

He said the Seven Corners ramp is currently underutilized.

Second-year graduate student James Lind said he takes most of his classes on the West Bank and parks at Seven Corners a couple times per week.

He said he parks there because it’s convenient, but thinks the price is a problem.

The ramp’s monthly rates are $60 for use from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and $80 for use 24 hours a day.

The 24-hour monthly parking rate has increased by about 10 percent since 2000, according to the city’s Web site.

“It’s way overpriced,” he said. “I don’t think it’s justified.”

The remaining ramp sales – of the Federal Courthouse, St. Anthony and Riverfront ramps – are pending, but could involve more development.