MINNEAPOLIS-Milliken Development Group is planning a $180-million project here that will turn a Jaguar dealership at Washington and Hennepin avenues in to a grocery-anchored residential-over-retail development. If all goes well, the full city block will be home to a 76,000-sf Whole Foods Market, 250 luxury condos and 6,500 sf of additional retail space in one high-rise tower and two low-rise towers sitting on an underground garage and encircling a piazza.

Milliken, a Seattle-based development firm, has yet to meet with city officials to lay out plans for the project. The tentative timeline is to begin moving dirt for the Marketplace in spring 2007 and open the complex two years later.

Renderings for the project are not yet available as architecture teams are still formulating plans. The designs are said to be similar to 2200 Westlake, an award-winning, three-tower mixed-use project slated for a 2008 completion that Milliken helped form as a minority partner with Vulcan Inc., the property arm of billionaire Paul Allen of Microsoft fame. That project includes a 47,000-sf Whole Foods Market, a 160-room Pan Pacific Hotel and 261 condominiums and additional retail resting on an underground parking garage and situated around a central plaza.

When Milliken landed Vulcan as its money partner in late 2000, the Seattle project was designed to include a 238,000-sf office tower instead of the hotel, and a QFC grocery store. In spring 2003, with the office market having slid from peak to valley floor, Milliken told GlobeSt.com it was lobbying Vulcan to swap out the office with a hotel instead of simply downsizing the project. Sixteen months later, in August 2004, it announced Pan Pacific as the hotelier and Whole Foods as the new grocer.

Another year later, in August 2005, Don Milliken announced Vulcan had bought out its estimated 5% minority interest, which would be reinvested in other projects, including Marketplace. Although no details were made available, based on Milliken’s comments some industry players figure he was forced to sell the stake and was bitter about it. Neither Milliken nor Vulcan responded to requests for more detail on the break-up at the time of the announcement.

“While Vulcan’s role has largely been on the financial end, they’ve been building a development arm and should be able to complete the final phases of the construction,” said Milliken. “It seems clear that Vulcan does not want to be involved in any real estate joint ventures. My understanding is they are in a legal dispute with one partner to dissolve [a different] partnership and have bought out another partner.”

The Marketplace project is being funded by three investors including Milliken Development. Milliken has selected RSP Architects to design the structure, and has not announced the contractor. Depending on market conditions and other variables, Milliken says condo pre-sales for The Marketplace Tower may begin as early as next autumn.

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