Custom House is an iconic historic building located at the Lower Levee on the Mississippi River where St. Paul and the Twin Cities had their beginnings. The 740,000 square foot, 17-story structure (plus two levels below-grade) was constructed in phases in 1934, 1939, and 1961, and served as St. Paul’s Main Post Office and Minnesota’s principal federal office building for 79 years. During its peak after World War II, the building and the adjacent Union Depot railroad station (connected by tunnels and overhead bridges) functioned as the third busiest postal operation in the nation. Originally designed by architects Lambert Bassindale of Saint Paul and Holabird & Root of Chicago under the direction of U.S. Treasury Department Supervising Architects James A. Wetmore and Lewis A. Simon, the building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was originally financed through the Public Buildings Act of 1926 and other appropriations from the federal government.

An Exeter Group affiliate acquired the building from the U.S. Postal Service in mid-2013 for $5.25 million (approximately $7 PSF of gross building area). In addition to the lengthy process of securing Minnesota State Preservation Office and National Park Service historic approvals of the building and its proposed changes, redevelopment challenges included registering title to real estate that was first platted in 1849; formulating a flood management plan that would satisfy governmental concerns about the nearby river; creating a master condominium regime to enable the hotel floors to be held by a separate ownership entity; qualifying for tax increment financing; and moving all building plumbing and district energy equipment out of subbasement levels to meet city codes. Over 10,000 tons of concrete and metal construction debris were removed to create a light well in the center of 72,000 SF floor plates on levels 2 through 6 for the hotel and to carve out a 12,000 SF sunken patio area on the 6th level for an outdoor pool and other apartment amenities.

  • Project cost: $125 million
  • Project size: 740,000 SF
  • Uses: 202 apartment residences developed by Exeter Group and leased and managed by Steven-Scott Management; 149 Hyatt Place hotel rooms developed by Nelson Construction and managed by LodgeWorks; 200 plus self-storage units developed by Exeter Group and managed by Acorn Mini-Storage; commercial space; and 350 plus indoor parking spaces
  • Completion: 2016
  • Architect: BKV Group
  • Contractor: Frana Companies for all of the project except the hotel which was done by Stahl Construction
  • Debt: TCF Bank for all of the project except the hotel which was financed by First National Bank of Omaha
  • Equity: Local investors and US Bank Community Development Corporation as federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credit investor. Hotel equity provided through the federal EB5 program

Map Locations (22) and (26)

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