Hotel proposed for Stevens Square property

Site is just blocks from the Minneapolis Convention Center

STEVENS SQUARE — A long-vacant Stevens Square property may become home to a Staybridge Suites extended-stay hotel.

Stevens Square Community Organization (SSCO) Executive Director Steven Gallagher showed conceptual drawings for a multi-story hotel with first-floor retail space to members of the SSCO Board of Directors May 17. The drawings were provided by project developer Norman Leslie, president of National Hospitality Services, who said he owns the Staybridge franchise rights for Minneapolis.

City planners have yet to review the proposal.

The hotel would be built just across Interstate 94 from Downtown on the former Johnson’s Meats site, now vacant, located on Nicollet Avenue between East 18th Street and the highway. The site includes four adjacent parcels on Nicollet Avenue and a vacated alleyway just behind them to the east, measuring about three-quarters of an acre in total, according to county property records.

National Hospitality Services operates both a Ramada Plaza & Suites and Staybridge Suites in Fargo, North Dakota, among other hotels.

“At this point, we’re excited about bringing a hotel to that neighborhood,” Leslie said.

Gallagher said Staybridge was just one of the hotel chains and other businesses he tried to lure to the neighborhood with a 2008 neighborhood marketing study prepared by Maxfield Research. That study found the neighborhood’s Nicollet Avenue business district, with its proximity to Downtown and various cultural amenities, made it "an excellent area to consider higher-density residential and commercial development.”

Said Gallagher: "They were one of the people that bit.”

Still, it took three years of talks to bring the development plans even to this preliminary stage.

“We’re working really hard and it’s coming to a crescendo,” Leslie said. “Two, three years ago it just wasn’t remotely possible given the financing environment and the [low] overall demand for hotels anywhere in the country.”

City Planner Beth Elliott wrote in an e-mail: "We haven’t seen any concept for Staybridge Hotel yet in CPED [Community Planning and Economic Development] and therefore haven’t assigned a planner to the project."

Elliott’s e-mail continued: "The representative from Staybridge has provided updates to the neighborhood and the Council on how financing is going but no drawings have been presented to CPED for even an informal review."

While Staybridge Suites accommodate longer stays, Leslie said about half of the hotel’s customers stay for only one to three days.

He said Gallagher’s efforts to promote Stevens Square were crucial to bringing the long-anticipated development of the Johnson’s Meats site closer to fruition.

“Steve was huge in this whole process,” he said. “The guy is a huge asset for that area, the community.”