The short history of the building currently occupying the 600 block of Hennepin, know commonly as Block E, in downtown Minneapolis is a staggeringly accurate metaphor paralleling the last decade of the greater real estate market. According to Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, the original cost of developing the site in 2001 (less the $36.25 million spent on the Graves Hotel which did not change ownership) was $105.75 million. When Alatus Development purchased the development in July, 2010 they paid a paltry $14 million, or roughly 13.23% of the original price. At the risk free rate of return (based on the 10 year T-bill which average 4.42% over the period) the investment in Block E would be worth $162.973 million, resulting in a savings of $148.973 million for Alatus in todays value. This investment appears to be a no brainer, but it is not without risk. Since opening, Block E has lost most of the anchor businesses that originally signed leases in the space including: Borders Books, Game Works, The Hard Rock Cafe, Applebees, and Hooters. The space which Game Works and Borders occupied is still vacant, presenting Alatus and Bob Lux, the lead developer on the project, with significant challenges in their attempt to turn the site into a successful retail operation. That said, the final price tag for the site was too attractive to pass on.
One significant factor that helped persuade Mr. Lux to move forward with the deal is the 550 heated underground parking spaces beneath Block E, at $25,455 per spot is inline with other parking structures around the city. Looking at the deal from this perspective, Alatus paid market rate for the parking, and got a deal sweetener that is quite impressive, approximately 213,000 sq/ft of retail space. Pricing it the other way, at $66 sq/ft, the retail space was purchased at a price that is almost inconceivable given Block E’s location at the heart of the downtown district and within walking distance of Target Field, The Target Center, and many of Minneapolis’s theaters and restaurants. Despite the obvious advantages in location, the previous owners at Block E have had serious difficulty maintaining profitable levels of business. Trying to figure out what to do with this space will certainly keep Mr. Lux up at night, until a solution that provides long term tenants can be derived. (more…)