Wells Fargo Goes All In On Downtown East Plan

Wells Fargo Goes All In On Downtown East Plan

The company officially signed on to the deal, and its new downtown Minneapolis office towers are expected to house up to 5,000 employees.

After months of discussion about the project, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Company announced Thursday that it has made a formal commitment to Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies US, Inc.’s ambitious redevelopment plan for Minneapolis' Downtown East area.

Wells Fargo will ultimately own two connected office towers with 1.1 million square feet, enough room for 5,000 employees.

“The investment in this project—more than $300 million—represents our continued commitment to downtown Minneapolis and to the state of Minnesota,” Dave Kvamme, CEO of Wells Fargo’s Minnesota operations, said in a statement. “We look forward to finalizing the plans and creating this additional space to better accommodate our teams, and add to the vibrancy that the Ryan project will bring for the east side of downtown.”

The plan will allow Wells Fargo to relocate some employees and provide space for growth. The company currently has 7,000 employees in 14 buildings in downtown Minneapolis. The financial giant ranks as one of the largest corporate employers in the state with more than 20,000 employees in Minnesota.

But it is not yet clear which buildings Wells Fargo employees will be leaving to move into the new towers.

“No decisions have been made about which Wells Fargo team members will office in those buildings,” Peggy Gunn, Wells Fargo spokeswoman, told Twin Cities Business.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who will leave office in less than two weeks at the conclusion of his third and final term.

Rybak told Twin Cities Business that the deal can be traced back about two years when Wells Fargo executives met with him and Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson to say that they were seeking a “campus location,” but assumed that they had to go to the suburbs to find a site that would work.

Rybak said that he suggested options in Minneapolis, including the land owned by the Star Tribune.

“I pointed them in the Star Tribune’s direction. We said that we could do a campus right next to the new stadium,” Rybak said.

Ryan Companies has proposed to buy five contiguous blocks of land from the Star Tribune to make way for a redevelopment topping $400 million in project costs that will include the office towers, new residential units, parking to accommodate office workers and visitors to the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, and a new city park. Construction of the new project is slated to begin in the spring of 2014.

The Minneapolis City Council approved the plan on December 13. The city is financing approximately $57.6 million in project costs for the parking ramps and the city park through the sale of general obligation bonds.

Ryan officials have previously said that they plan to acquire the land from the Star Tribune on December 27.

The Star Tribune would then lease back office space at its headquarters at 425 Portland Avenue for an unspecified time until the newspaper publisher moves its operations to a new, leased location in downtown Minneapolis. The newspaper’s main building stands on land slated for the future public park.

Last week, three critics of the Ryan plan filed a lawsuit taking issue with the financing of the project. The three plaintiffs are Stephanie Woodruff, Dan Cohen, and Paul Ostrow. Woodruff and Cohen both ran for Minneapolis mayor’s office this year; Cohen and Ostrow both served on the Minneapolis City Council.

Hennepin County judge Mel Dickstein dismissed four of the suit’s five counts last week, but lawyers are still wrangling over one remaining issue: resolving whether the city can legally establish a park. According to the term sheet for the deal, the city is slated to pay Ryan $20 million for the urban park.