MINNETONKA, MN-Opus Northwest was recently given final approval by the city council to develop Crest Ridge Corporate Center, a two-building office complex that will total 230,000 sf. One building already has a tenant. Syngenta Seeds, a Switzerland-based agricultural firm, is leasing the first building to go up, a 110,000-sf facility, as a new headquarters. The cost for building both facilities will be about $63.2 million.

Syngenta is going to consolidate 200 employees from multiple sites from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and another 150 employees from other states in the Midwest. Jeff Cox, president of the company, says in a statement that his company wanted to keep its roots in the Twin Cities area.

Tom Shaver, VP of real estate for Opus, says Syngenta has signed a long-term lease for the property, but he declined to say the exact term. Construction on the three-story first building will begin this spring, with a mid-summer 2009 delivery, he tells GlobeSt.com. The tenant has also insisted that Opus build the facility to gain LEED Gold certification, he says. The Syngenta building will include maximized open green areas, landscaping with water-efficient native plants, reduced water use, high-efficiency heating and cooling, recycled building materials, onsite storm water management and natural lighting for work areas.

The other building will be built as speculative, and will likely have more than one tenant, Shaver says. “We’ll mass grade the entire site, but we’ll start the second phase at an appropriate time. We’ve got until late summer to get interest in the spec building,” he says. Opus will seek LEED certification [not Gold] for the second building, which will have an asking rate of between $18 to $19 per sf, Shaver says.

The developer had to get past some opposition to the new office buildings, as they are going into a residentially zoned area. “The property is presently zoned R-1, but the city’s land-use plan has it earmarked for office. We’ve assembled a site that has 14 homes on it now. We had some issues with neighbors, but over the past 90 days we’ve had meetings with everyone, and have come to a solution palatable to them. That includes buffering, focusing the buildings toward the busy street, bringing down the density with green areas and ponds, and lowering the floor ratio to 37%,” Shaver says. Also, both buildings will not be more than three and a half stories high.

He says Opus was attracted to the site because it is right on Interstate 394, a thoroughfare connecting the western suburbs to Downtown Minneapolis. The property is on the southeast corner of I-394 and County Road 73. “The office market there is very healthy, there’s a lack of large blocks of class A space,” Shaver says.

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