Trekking to and from the cities across our oft-frozen tundra, or while enjoying a cosmopolitan night out in Uptown, a flickering thought has most certainly crossed your mind: What would it be like if I just lived here?
Luxury apartment projects blooming in the urban cores of Minneapolis and St. Paul are answering that question in surprisingly lavish ways, attracting young professionals, empty nesters, and all lifestyles in between.
Herb Tousley, a real estate veteran and director of the real estate program at the University of St. Thomas, explains that many young people are renting by choice, not by necessity. “These people would like to live in a setting with nice interior finishes and a great amenity package. Renting also gives them more flexibility to follow employment opportunities,” he says.
Retiring boomers are flocking to rent, too. According to the 2013 State of the Nation’s Housing report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, the number of U.S. renter households among 55- to 64-year-olds increased by 80 percent between 2002 and 2012.
The Twin Cities is catering to the demand. In 2013, approximately 3,100 new market-rate apartments opened in the metro area. Many more are slated for completion this year: between 4,200 and 4,600. Most are considered “luxury,” and their central locations are coupled with a collection of uncommon amenities, some completely new. (A clear-wall Jacuzzi spa overhanging Lake Street, anyone?)
Read on for benefits of living in the center of it all.
From left to right: The Penfield’s green deck features a pool, hot tub, cabanas, dog run, fire pit, and walking path; Mill & Main’s Mississippi riverfront location offers walking and biking paths at its front door; The Walkway’s patio restaurants, pool, and Jacuzzi spa bring more energy to Lake Street.
1. No Car Required
With work and play close by, many residents shed their cars in favor of walking or biking. Several apartments, including The Nic on Fifth and Elan Uptown, have walk scores (which rank a residence’s walkability based on its proximity to nearby shops and services) of 90 to 100, designating each “a walker’s paradise.” Uptown’s The Walkway, which opened in January, has a walk score of 100.
For downtown dwellers in Minneapolis, eight miles of skyways add a weather-protected layer of walkability. “We are seeing a lot of residents who dislike the commute from the suburbs into downtown and have chosen to live at the Soo Line Building City Apartments so they can easily walk to work in the skyways,” says Stefanie Balsis, regional sales and marketing director for Village Green, which owns and manages the Soo Line Building City Apartments.
Transit scores—which rank proximity to public transportation—are also high, with The Nic on Fifth earning a perfect 100, thanks in part to a light rail station at its front door. “Convenience is the ultimate luxury,” says Dave Menke, developer of The Nic on Fifth. In St. Paul, The Penfield is one block from the METRO Green Line, a light rail system that will connect the downtowns via the University of Minnesota and University Avenue beginning June 14.
Need groceries? Lunds will soon open downstairs at The Penfield, and 222 Hennepin Apartments contains the first Whole Foods in downtown Minneapolis.
2. But If You Do Have A Car, There’s Private Parking
Prefer to drive? Resident parking is typically covered and often access- and climate-controlled—a rarity in these cities. Some, including St. Paul’s 808 Berry Place and 740 River Drive, even maintain car washes for residents. The Walkway in Uptown also offers guest and public parking, so your friends and family don’t have to scout out a spot on the street or pay for one in a public ramp.
3. High-End Chic
High ceilings and high-end furnishings and finishes abound.
“Our apartment homes were built with condo-like finishes in mind,” says Laura Longen of Elan Uptown. “Everything is top-of-the-line, including custom bamboo flooring, granite countertops with glass tile backsplashes, a stainless steel package; some floor plans have a wine fridge. The bedrooms were designed to accommodate a king-size bed with plenty of space left over. It’s all about the details.”
Apartments seem to be in agreement on the importance of luxury-level details. Think leather-wrapped door handles, 10-foot ceilings, private balconies, granite kitchen islands, custom lighting and paint, marble vanities, and floor-to-ceiling glass to take in the view.
From top: The Soo Line Building City Apartments’ rooftop Sky Park and Sky Lounge; 222 Hennepin Apartments’ rooftop terrace. Both offer views of downtown, Target Field, and the Mississippi River.
4. Maximized Outdoor Living
We may have shorter summers, but a host of outdoor amenities can help you make the most of them. Many apartments have taken to the sky with rooftop pools, patios, bars, and barbecues. 222 Hennepin’s rooftop terrace also offers bocce ball and a fireplace for cooler evenings. The Soo Line Building City Apartments’ Sky Park contains one of two indoor/outdoor rooftop pools in Minneapolis.
“We took great measures and installed a tremendous amount of steel to have that amenity,” Balsis says. “The entire rooftop is open for residents to enjoy year-round.”
In Uptown, The Walkway’s owner, Clark A. Gassen, has taken the opposite approach, placing restaurant Coup d’état (with a walk-up window for quick orders) and the resident-exclusive R Bar on the building’s first two levels. “To me, it’s about creating energy on the streets, so when you’re driving by Uptown, you see all these pedestrians and people,” he explains.
The Walkway’s street-oriented design is also evident in its sidewalk park and Jacuzzi spa, which features a clear wall and overhangs Lake Street. “When you’re in there, you can watch people walking,” Gassen says. And yes, you can order a cocktail (or a wrap) while you survey the scene.
5. Instagramable Skylines
Twin Cities luxury apartments offer a collection of rare vantage points, including rooftop views of the downtown skylines and Mississippi River.
6. A Concierge
Most apartments have a 24/7 concierge. “They can arrange housekeeping, pet and plant care, pickup and delivery of dry cleaning, package and grocery delivery, and much more,” says Enrico Paolucci, property manager at 740 River Drive. As business manager Elin Michel-Midelfort of 222 Hennepin Apartments puts it, “Our goal is to say ‘yes’ to our residents whenever we can.”
The Walkway’s concierge is Jean-Pierre Dechateau, one-time butler to Sir Elton John. Residents also have access to a concierge app, which allows them to arrange for everything from room service to dog walking from a smartphone.
7. Your Dog Loves It
While not every apartment allows pets, most welcome them with open arms—and wide-open spaces for walking and playing.
“Pets are not only welcome at Mill & Main, but they take great pleasure in the many urban parks and walking paths right outside our front door and along both sides of the Mississippi River,” says Kelly Doran, chief manager of Doran Companies, which owns Mill & Main.
Onsite pet amenities are commonplace. 222 Hennepin maintains an off-leash dog area, The Nic on Fifth offers a private dog walk and green space, and pups at The Penfield delight in a dog run and walking path. Does Fido need a post-walk bath? Elan Uptown has a professional pet-washing station, and Mill & Main’s canine residents can enjoy weekly grooming at its Pet Spa.
8. Built-In Community
From pet spas and pools to cafés and cabanas, shared amenity spaces promote community. “We attribute a lot of new friendships to our phenomenal communal areas on the property,” says 222 Hennepin’s Michel-Midelfort.
The Walkway’s units are strategically placed to promote interaction among all residents, with studios next to penthouses. “I didn’t want the entire top floor to be all penthouse people, because that’s not, in my vision, the way Uptown is,” Gassen says.
Altogether, it’s a refreshing way to experience the cities. “It is about saving time and getting more out of life,” Balsis explains. “There’s no lawn care, shoveling, or repairs that need to be done. It is a lifestyle that is about simplifying and enjoying the city.”
But she had us at no shoveling.
Where to Become a Local
Dozens of cafés, restaurants, and bars are steps away. Here are some resident favorites to help you choose.
222 Hennepin Apartments
“The Bachelor Farmer/Marvel Bar is a popular spot for drinks, dinner, or both, with amazing food and service. If you are looking for more of a nightlife scene, Tangiers is just half a block away.”
Elin Michel-Midelfort, business manager
“Bar Louie is right out our front door and was the spot for our first members’ get-together. Mac ’n’ cheese pizza from Mesa is one of the staff’s favorites.”
Laura Longen, community manager
Mill & Main
“Wilde Roast Café on Main Street and Dunn Bros Coffee on University Avenue are Mill & Main hangouts for Saturday morning breakfasts. Pracna on Main is the choice when gathering for happy hour. For fine dining, the nearby Restaurant Alma is a favorite.”
Kelly Doran, chief manager, Doran Companies
“Favorites are Keys Café, Sawatdee, Black Sheep Pizza, Meritage, and Great Waters Brewing Company. Residents are also excited for Tin Whiskers to open and to walk to the St. Paul Farmers’ Market.”
Stefanie Balsis, regional sales and marketing director, Village Green
The Pointe at River Crossing
“You will most likely see our residents at The Nook and Shamrocks.”
Ronica Harris, leasing professional
808 Berry Place
“Residents love to visit Cupcake, a café right up the street with 20 to 25 different kinds of cupcakes on any given day. If it’s a drink they are looking for, the Dubliner always delivers.”
Meg Tibbs, community manager