City planners in Minneapolis have named a winner in the public competition to redevelop a downtown lot that had locals reevaluating the place of tall towers in the Twin Cities. After first rejecting an 80-story tower proposal that would have become the tallest building in Minnesota, the planners picked a 36-story tower and hotel complex proposed by United Properties, based in suburban Bloomington, Minn. United is owned by members of the family that also own the Minnesota Twins baseball franchise, who came under fire when the construction of the Twins stadium, Target Field, received substantial public financing. By contrast the new tower will be privately funded. The project, dubbed The Gateway, offers 300 units and a full-service Hilton hotel designed by Duluth-based LHB Corp. United is partnering with FRM Associates—the property owner of Marquette Plaza—to extend Cancer Survivors Park, a nearby green space, connecting it with a “year-round, street-level activity park” at The Gateway's base. That park is supposed to connect with a trolley car planned to open in 2018. Although the proposal awaits approval from city council, the city planners' recommendation virtually guarantees its success. Their selection of United's proposal reverses plans to present the remaining proposals to the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association on February 16—a move that has stirred some controversy among local skyline-watchers who favored the 80-story proposal in an online poll. The Gateway was the second tallest of the four proposals. Since 1991 the site at the northern end of downtown's Nicollet Mall has been a surface parking lot and bus stop. “This end of Nicollet Mall really starts to get very quiet as the day ends, and it needs a catalyst to bring new life and new vigor,” Bill Katter, executive vice president of investments for United Properties, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
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Minneapolis hosted the Major League Baseball All Star Game this year, and many of the 41,000 people in attendance used some new public transit to get there. In May the city opened Target Field Station—a multimodal transit hub and public space at the foot of the Twins' Target Field that designers Perkins Eastman hope will catalyze development. Their bet appears to be paying off, as nonprofit marrow donation organizer Be The Match is moving ahead with a $60 million headquarters next to the new station. The METRO Green Line, which stops at Target Field Station, this year opened its long-awaited route to St. Paul—the first inter-city light rail connection between the Twin Cities in decades. Here's a gallery of the station, copyright photographer Morgan Sheff and courtesy Perkins Eastman—except for the night aerial shot, which is copyright Nick Benson: