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Wall Cos. shifts gears in Prospect Park

"Wall Cos. is putting the final touches on a major redevelopment plan in Minneapolis’ Prospect Park neighborhood called Malcolm Yards, which would include office, retail, housing and perhaps most strikingly, an indoor climbing facility.

John Wall, president of the Minneapolis-based development company, declined to put a dollar figure on the project, but said it was going to be a considerable investment.

“It’s going to be big — very, very huge,” Wall said Thursday.

The land in question is a 20-acre tract bounded by the University of Minnesota Transitway to the south, railroad tracks on the north, Malcolm Avenue Southeast on the east and 29th Avenue Southeast on the west, he said. The site, which includes defunct grain elevators, is about a half-mile from the Prospect Park Station on the Green Line light rail route.

The new development has been a long time coming. For several years, Wall Cos. hoped to build a science-oriented business incubator on the site, which it called the Minnesota Innovation Park. The land is close to the University of Minnesota, and Wall thought its proximity would allow businesses in the innovation park easy access to researchers there. The pitch fell on deaf ears, however.

“We couldn’t seem to sell it. There is not another prestigious university in the country that doesn’t have a park like this, but the [University of Minnesota] didn’t seem to care and neither did anyone else,” Wall claimed. “So we abandoned that pursuit and rebranded the development as Malcolm Yards.”

Most recently the land has been used for outside storage.

The climbing gym will be the first piece of the larger development to fall into place, Wall said. The company is in the process of selling 1.75 acres of the site to Midwest Climbing LLC, an entity related to the Minneapolis-based Midwest Climbing Academy owned by Richard Cargill, according to documents on file with the Secretary of State’s office.

Officials with Midwest Climbing Academy could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Wall expects the deal will close in early April. He did not know what Midwest Climbing’s construction timeline would be like, but said it would be the first to break ground among the many projects in the redevelopment plan.

Beyond the climbing facility, Wall has ambitious plans for the property. The company already plans to renovate an existing structure on the site, the Harris Machinery building, which is in the process of being made into a food hall.

Wall is also in talks with a prospective office tenant, which may build a new location on the site, and a grocery store. Wall said the plan includes multiple housing developments, which will range in price from affordable to upscale.

The site could also be chosen as a hub for the World’s Fair, Expo 2023, Wall said, should Minnesota win the bid to host the event. Wall’s claims were confirmed by Mark Ritchie, the former secretary of state and current president of the Minnesota World’s Fair Bid Committee.

Wall declined to give the exact square footage that will be dedicated to retail, office and housing, since much will depend on the needs of specific tenants.

“I’d just as soon leave that kind of open. We’re clearly trying to make this as dynamic and dense as we can,” Wall said. “It’s great because we have a clean slate to do whatever we want there.”

One wild card remains: the three defunct grain elevators at the site.

“I’d like to find an adaptive re-use for them, and I have spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to figure it out, but they’re tough,” Wall said.

For now, Wall Cos. has no immediate plans for the structures. The development will be built up around them.

Wall’s plans came to light after his company asked the Minneapolis Planning Commission to subdivide the climbing wall site from the rest of the property in anticipation of the sale. The matter will go to the Planning Commission on Monday.

Malcolm Yards has been in the works for about a year he said.

During that time, Prospect Park has become a hot spot for new development. Two projects are going up next to the Wall property: the 330-unit RISE apartment complex, which will have a Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery store on its ground floor, and Green on 4th, a 243-unit apartment complex spearheaded by Minneapolis-based Prospect Park Properties and Bloomington-based Timberland Partners.

Prospect Park Properties is an investor in the redevelopment effort, Wall said. It also assisted with the land deal with Midwest Climbing, Prospect Park Properties President Jeffrey Barnhart said Thursday, adding that the climbing gym was only a small part of the project there.

“It’s going to be really cool,” Barnhart said."

- Claire Kennedy - Finance & Commerce



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