The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 22, 2013

Commercial/apartment tower slated for OLD EMBERS SITE

Project one of several aiming at upper end urban housing

By Tim Krohn
tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com

---- — MANKATO — Part of the former Embers restaurant site in downtown Mankato will be home to a five-story building featuring office/commercial space on the three lower floors with upper-end condos atop.

Mankato developer Mike Brennan owns the site, which runs from Riverfront Drive to Second Street, between the Blue Earth County Library and Plum Street (which runs next to the Wine Cafe).

The 50,000 square foot Bridge Plaza (bridge-plaza.com) will be built along Second Street, on what is now a grassy area. A second building is planned for the future along Riverfront, on the site of the old Embers building and parking lot.

The condo complex would feature an exercise room, wine tasting room, rooftop terrace and heated parking.

"They are unique, special condos. Something we don't have here," Brennan said.

The project goes to the Mankato Planning Commission on Aug. 28 and to the City Council on Sept. 9. A recent review by the Mankato Site Plan Review Committee found no major issues with the plan.

Brennan said he has letters of intent pending from commercial users and said the project — and Mankato — is gaining more attention from outside the region.

"I talked to two potential users from out of town this week and they see what's going on in Mankato. They knew about our ranking in the top 10 in the country for cities under 250,000 as a good place to live and work," Brennan said.

"It's a tribute to what we're doing here."

He hopes to break ground this fall and open next fall.

Brennan, who purchased the land four years ago, originally had plans to build a similar building on the site with an adjacent building to house the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota. But the museum later chose to take over a former city bus garage building behind Cub Foods for the new museum.

The project is one of several in the works featuring upper-income urban residences. Tailwind Group is to build a five-story commercial/apartment building on Front Street. A 172-unit project is to be built behind Madison East Center as part of a larger Kearney housing/commercial project. The proposed Marigold apartment complex in North Mankato was put on hold after legal challenges.

A 144-unit market rate apartment complex is also nearing completion east of the hilltop Hy-Vee and several smaller apartment projects have sprung up in Mankato in the past year or so. A recent market study commissioned by Mankato found there is a big shortage of apartments.