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Neighborhood opposition delays Franklin-Lyndale project

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: March 13, 2014 - 10:54 PM

A mixed-use development that would transform a key South Minneapolis intersection at Franklin and Lyndale Avenues likely won't begin construction this year because of opposition from a neighborhood group.

Developer Don Gerberding has proposed constructing a six-story building featuring 89 apartments, ground-level retail, a restaurant and a part-public parking structure on a lot now primarily dominated by surface parking. A thrift store, barber shop and dry cleaners would be displaced, but the Theatre Garage would be incorporated into the new development.

Given its location close to downtown and near several bus lines, the project has become somewhat of a litmus test of city leaders' goals to increase housing density along commercial corridors. Council Member Lisa Bender noted at a meeting last month that the city has designated the intersection as an area for growth.

But Gerberding has faced stiff opposition from neighbors who have attended meetings of the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association -- most of them longtime homeowners. Critics object to the building's height, obstruction of some nearby resident views, and its potential impact on traffic and on-street parking pressures. Neither the association nor its zoning and planning committee have taken a vote on the project, however.

Younger renters make up a significant percentage of the neighborhood's residents, but have been largely absent from the process.

A neighborhood resident himself, Gerberding has not yet formally submitted the project to the city. The development team is asking to rezone part of the lot to make the zoning consistent, in addition to variances for reducing setbacks and special permits for increased height and the parking structure. Gerberding had initially hoped they could begin construction some time this summer -- if the proposal cleared the necessary hoops at City Hall.

“I don’t think that that’s very plausible any longer," Gerberding told a tense crowd Wednesday night. "We’ve been to the neighborhoods, we’re going to come back to the neighborhoods until we agree that it’s a project.”

The proposal changed slightly after neighbors voiced objections at an initial meeting. A rooftop park accessible to the public was removed, setbacks from adjoining properties were increased and a sidewalk was widened.

View of the proposal from Lyndale Avenue looking toward Franklin Avenue.

Neighbors at Wednesday's meeting seemed no closer to supporting the project, however.

"I and my neighbors have very carefully, with great effort and diligence, cultivated the local culture – a very vibrant neighborhood that exists … now," said Scott Fine. "We don’t want somebody coming from outside and realigning the culture, rewiring our way of life."

Terry Carney, a longtime resident of the area, said the development would obstruct views.

"We don’t just look at a wall," Carney said. "We look at downtown. That’s our view. When you build this six story structure, you’ve taken that away. And you’ve taken our daylight away."

David Forney said he would support more comprehensive planning for the northern edge of the neighborhood, known as "the Wedge” because of its distinctive shape. The southern edge has seen much development in recent years, largely in the form of six-story apartment buildings.

“If it's going to go the way of the southern part of the Wedge along the [Midtown] Greenway has gone, then I think we’ve all got something to regret,” Forney said. “Because that’s a categorical mess down there. It’s just awful what’s happened.”

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