The Chicago developer that wanted to build a controversial 25-story apartment building in the Dinkytown neighborhood in Minneapolis has come back with a new plan that will dramatically crop the building, but preserve much of its density.
CA Ventures has been working for several years on plans to redevelop much of a block that fronts SE. 15th Avenue between SE. 4th and 5th streets in a neighborhood near the University of Minnesota where a fierce battle over building height, density and historic preservation has played out in recent years.
That latest proposal called for replacing a two-story, 1970s-era McDonald’s and several other buildings with a 25-story apartment tower in an area where the maximum height limit is just four stories.
In a staff report submitted to the Minneapolis Planning Commission in late August, the developer also proposed building a smaller option: A 16-story tower. Both proposals would include 350 to 370 units, likely geared toward students, along with a variety of amenities.
The developer has rolled out a new plan that calls for a nine-story building with 300 rental units and 211 parking stalls proposed in two levels of underground parking. It also includes 23,000 square feet of commercial space, including three commercial spaces that would face SE. 4th Street and a large commercial space fronting SE. 5th Street. The proposal will be presented to the city planning commission’s committee of the whole on Thursday.
“We went through a comprehensive review of our plan to address questions and concerns raised during the community review process, including those pertaining to height and affordability,” said Ryan Sadowy, senior director of development for CA Ventures.
“We believe we have refined the plan in a way that maintains project viability, aligns with the broader objectives set forth in the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, and allows us to deliver the numerous public benefits we have promised to neighbors during this process.”
Documents submitted to the city call for enhanced transit shelters, pedestrian upgrades, bicycle amenities, public art, reduced-rate commercial spaces and district parking.
During several meetings with neighbors and members of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association the hottest debates focused on the height of the project and the need for housing that’s more affordable for students.
In an area that includes the University of Minnesota and several adjacent neighborhoods, the average monthly apartment rent was $1,136, a 20% annual increase, according to a second-quarter report from Marquette Advisors.
That increase is due in part to the proliferation of new, market-rate apartments, but also a dearth of rentals. The average vacancy rate at the end of June was 2% compared with 0.9% the year before.
The latest proposal cites the inclusion of “potentially affordable housing,” but doesn’t include specifics on how that will be achieved. Sadowy said he’s committed to that goal.
“We are working closely with the city and Council Member Steve Fletcher to ensure apartments are attainable to students, even though they are currently excluded from formal affordable housing policies,” he said.
Stakeholders also expressed a need for additional retail, including a grocery store. Conversations with tenants of various sizes are ongoing, Sadowy said, but he’s yet to finalize any agreements.
“We understand what the community hopes to see in this development and are working diligently to identify a user that benefits both residents and neighbors,” he said.
By abandoning the taller option, the developer will eliminate the need to seek an immediate amendment to the new Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan, which encourages more height and density in some areas.
The current proposal would require a conditional use permit to increase height from the current four-story limit. The proposals say the “goal of the development team is to design a building that creates an iconic location and fosters an entry point into Dinkytown.”
The building would have a two-story base along 4th Street aimed at relating to the existing buildings in the area, but along 15th Avenue a six-story facade would step back to the tallest portion of the building.
The primary building materials would be masonry, metal panel, stucco, and glass.
Based on preliminary renderings a city report says “staff has concerns about the massing and design of the building. … Staff would like to see more distinct massing nodules to break up the building into smaller, identifiable sections and to minimize the visual appearance of the additional requested bulk.”