A Twin Cities developer wants to build a 10-story apartment building in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis that’s expected to test the scope of the city’s recently adopted comprehensive plan.
The proposal comes from Twin Cities-based Oak Management and Development, a company that owns and manages ministorage and rental apartments.
An entity associated with the company recently submitted plans to build a 10-story building with 127 rental units, including more than two dozen that would be affordable to people who earn 60 to 80 percent of the area median income. There would also be 3,500 square feet of ground-level retail space along Lake Street.
The company already owns the nearly half-acre site at 1711 W. Lake St., close to the corner of James and Lake about a block east of Bde Maka Ska.
A handful of existing buildings, including a couple of duplexes, would be demolished to make way for the building, which is being called James & Lake.
Zoning rules in the area restrict buildings to six stories, so the developer will be requesting a variance to build taller than what’s now allowed.
The developer said the project is consistent with policies set forth in the city’s 2040 comprehensive plan, which took effect at the beginning of the year. The plan includes an interim-zoning ordinance that requires developers to include a certain number of income-restricted units in projects that require additional city approvals.
“James & Lake is the right development at the right time for this community and the neighborhood,” said Darin Broton, a spokesman for the project. “James & Lake will provide modern apartments with a mix of unit types at a variety of price points to make this project a low- and middle-cost alternative to luxury housing.”
Lee Todd of the East Calhoun Community Organization said he’s troubled by the proposal because of its height and density. “This is a proposal that’s way out of scale with what would fit into the neighborhood,” he said.
Todd said that last spring, the developers presented plans to build a smaller, six-story building, but after the City Council appeared ready to approve the new plan’s affordability requirement, they recast their plans for a taller building with more units.
Todd said he worries about the precedent it might set for neighborhoods like East Calhoun, where higher-density redevelopment is perceived to have a negative impact on the livability of established neighborhoods that are already congested.
“If a developer can simply add a huge number of units and designate some as affordable and blow away all zoning, 2040 guidances and Shoreland Overlay codes, I think that’s a real bad precedent,” he said.
He said the neighborhood group isn’t opposed to change, supports the inclusionary zoning aspect of the new plan and believes the area needs a better diversity of rental options.
“What we are opposed to is having no rules about how buildings get built and what kind of large structures get put in and the impact they have on the people who live in the area,” Todd said.
The site is in an area that’s dominated by low-rise residential and commercial development in what’s already one of the most densely populated parts of the city. In recent years, developers have been building larger and taller buildings. The James & Lake project is just a couple blocks from the three-story Sons of Norway building that is being replaced by a taller, also controversial, 317-unit apartment building. The 10-story MoZaic West office building, which is in the heart of Uptown’s commercial and retail district, is about three blocks away.
Broton said one aim of the project is to create a higher-quality building than existing development in the area. That means using concrete instead of a typical wood frame, he said.
No tax credits are being used for the project, Broton said, and 10 percent of the apartments will be set aside for those earning 60 percent or less of the area median income (AMI), which is now $39,660 per year. An additional 10 percent of the apartments will be available to those earning 80 percent or less AMI, or $50,350 per year.
Broton said the building, which was designed by Minneapolis-based UrbanWorks, will have a fitness center, club room, outdoor space, bicycle storage and pet-friendly amenities and is “intended to utilize the neighborhood as an attractive amenity.”
Oak Management and Development does not have any additional multifamily projects in the works in the Twin Cities. The James & Lake project will be reviewed by the Planning Commission’s committee of the whole, which will provide feedback to the developer before formal applications are made.
The project comes at a time of intense development in the city, and growing concern about the depth of demand in some rental submarkets.
Mary Bujold of Maxfield Research said that a good test of the market will be how quickly new units are rented at Ryan Cos.’ Sons of Norway project, which is under construction. Right now, she said, the Uptown area seems able to handle more units, but some projects are seeing a slight slowing in how quickly new units are being absorbed into the market.
“Not anything significant,” she said. “But newer properties are seeing more turnover than in the past with some people moving around to the newest properties.”