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It's a rare story in Twin Cities development these days: A neighborhood group telling a developer that his proposal doesn't add enough density.
But that's what happened last week during a meeting over a proposed 500-unit apartment project on the 5.4-acre former Superior Plating site in Northeast, a block from Surdyk's. A Florida-based firm is pitching the mixed-use development in place of the just-demolished industrial building.
"The biggest problem we saw what that they were not proposing enough density in housing," said Victor Grambsch, board president of the Nicollet Island East Bank Neighborhood Association. "They were proposing something like 500 units. We think it should be closer to 700 or more."
DLC Residential presented the proposal for six stories of luxury apartments to a neighborhood subcommittee focused on the project. A local representative for DLC, which has a letter of intent to buy the site, did not respond to a request for comment last week.
"Strategically, it didn't carry the density that I think the city is looking for there and I think that we're looking for there," Grambsch said. "I think the bottom-line comment was more or less, 'Get your density up.'
Grambsch said they do not want the building to resemble the "second- rate" wood-frame construction that has sprung up in their neighborhood and across the city. But building higher than five or six stories generally involves switching to a concrete frame, which is more expensive.
"[The developer] actually indicated that if it were required that they would build to this level of density, that they would walk on the project," he said.
Grambsch said the neighborhood association views added density as particularly important for sustaining their commercial district and nearby transit.
"I think density is where it's at if you're trying to build a city," he said. "It's a big issue with regard to providing customers for the local retail base. It's a big issue with regard to making use of public facilities like transit, and like the new streetcar that's going to be built — we presume."
Other neighborhood groups across the city, including Linden Hills, Cedar-Isles Dean and the Wedge, have been less keen on additional density. The Nicollet Island East Hennepin neighborhood is, however, much more of a downtown extension.
"We're either an anomaly or the wave the future," Grambsch said. "I've watched my fellow travelers in the neighborhood business out in Linden Hills [and] other places that argue against density. I don't get it."
No votes were taken at the meeting. The next meeting on the project will depend on whether the developer has more to present.
"This development is the linchpin for that whole neighborhood," said Council Member Jacob Frey. "And if we're talking about adding density to our city, this is a prime location to do it. And six stories does not cut the mustard."