Loring Hill project nears approval by Minneapolis City Council

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 28, 2011 - 10:05 PM

A Minneapolis City Council panel appeared to clear the way for the development, which has been embroiled in court fights.

Developer Brad Hoyt's third stab at building housing on Loring Hill in Minneapolis could be on the verge of success.

Hoyt's bid for a 124-unit residence on the hill overlooking Loring Park got a key boost Thursday: A City Council committee voted 4-1 in favor of his appeal of the city Planning Commission's denial of approvals he needs.

Assuming the full City Council concurs next Friday, Hoyt could proceed with construction on a site he's been trying to develop since 2004.

After his initial bid for a 21-story tower was rejected by the city, he sued, and a lengthy court fight ensued. Ultimately, judges agreed with Hoyt's claim that area Council Member Lisa Goodman had prejudiced the council against him, but courts awarded him no damages.

Goodman, who sits on the committee that voted Thursday, was advised by city attorneys not to participate in discussion or voting on Hoyt's latest proposal. During the meeting, a parade of her constituents argued against granting Hoyt's appeal for a seven-story, 84-foot building.

Opponents argued the project would be too big in scale for the site and area, would shadow nearby buildings and runs counter to the shoreland ordinance protecting Loring Pond.

But the committee gave weight to a staff finding that shadowing wouldn't be significant and that the project incorporates water management features. Moreover, although there was testimony that the project runs counter to design guidelines that the Loring Park neighborhood group has developed, those have yet to be translated to zoning restrictions.

Residents also testified that they feel the building would dwarf nearby housing designated as historically significant, but no historic preservation district that could bring more stringent development restrictions on development has been formed.

"I am pleased that the appeals board recognized the property owners have rights and acted in the best interests of the City of Minneapolis," Hoyt said afterward in an e-mail.

In his legal action after the city rejected his 2004 proposal, Hoyt claimed $11.7 million in lost profits from Goodman's actions, but a judge rejected those damages. An appeals court decision stripped Hoyt of a lower court award of $523,000 in attorney and other costs. Hoyt's bid to have the Minnesota Supreme Court review those rulings was denied.

The appeals court did order the city to re-hear Hoyt's bid for his original proposal but agreed that it was within its rights to deny the 21-story project. Hoyt also proposed a scaled-down version in 2005 that was for seven stories and 74 units, but withdrew it after a favorable Planning Commission recommendation.

Meanwhile, Citizens for a Loring Park Community, the neighborhood group that testified against Hoyt's proposal, is preparing to vacate the office it has occupied for 12 years after Hoyt opted not to continue its month-to-month lease.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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