Uptown vibe goes upscale with high-end rentals

  • Article by: MAYA RAO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 24, 2014 - 11:30 AM

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The streets lining the Midtown Greenway are busier than ever, as more than 1,000 luxury apartments rise over what was a dreary stretch of Uptown only several years ago.

In view of Jenny Crump’s perch on the rooftop of the Lime Apartments is the biking trail and rows of new buildings alongside it. Cranes stretch in the distance. Farther down are the Flux apartments and Bar Louie, which opened in 2012 but already feel more like established landmarks.

“It’s a much bigger, much more active city than I thought,” said Crump, a New Yorker who moved with her husband to a $2,200-a month apartment at Lime this month.

The explosive growth has raised some concerns over whether more affordable housing is needed amid buildings where a studio can run $1,200 a month, and prompted worries that the very people who give Uptown its hip and funky vibe could be priced out.

“It’s just not us,” Matt Barthelemy, who works at Common Roots on 26th and Lyndale. He appreciates the new money flowing into Uptown but worries that the neighborhood is losing its soul. “The more and more luxury apartments we see go up, the more corporations and chain stores we see go up, the more homogenized it is,” he said.

Even community boosters say they’d like to see some moderately priced homes in the development boom.

“The one hope is we do get some more … affordable housing,” said Soren Jensen, who is otherwise a cheerleader of the new developments and heads the Midtown Greenway Coalition.

Council Member Lisa Bender, who represents the area, is working on an initiative that could encourage developers to include affordable units in their buildings — not that she is trying to dull the enthusiasm about Uptown’s new high-end housing.

“I think a lot of people are excited,” Bender said.

The apartment buildings are populated with employees of General Mills, Target, and other Fortune 500 companies who have swapped the skylines of Chicago and New York for views of downtown Minneapolis and traded Michigan Avenue and Broadway for Lake Street.

Apartment managers are waging an intense battle for the twenty- and thirty-something newcomers. Greco Properties, which owns the Lime, Flux, and Blue apartments along the Greenway, is offering residents a free spot on a Caribbean cruise if they can bring in someone who signs a 12-month lease.

“We’re all getting all the same prospects … there’s so much supply that we’re trying to stay competitive,” said Jaime Perron, a manager at Greco.

Gyms, granite countertops, pools, rooftop lounge spaces, concierges and catered happy hours are the current fashion.

Ryan Adams, 25, said Elan Uptown gave him his first month’s rent free when he moved into a $1,700 one-bedroom apartment.

“They were all doing the same thing — you could tell they were competing,” he said.

Elan is the largest new development by far. It will have nearly 600 units by the time its third building is completed in the fall, sprawling between Dupont and Fremont avenues.

A public plaza is planned, with greenery and water flowing down steps into a pool. It would also offer residents direct access to the Greenway under a promenade that looks out over the trail. The complex has catered sushi, held wine tastings and organized networking events.

Track 29 bills itself as quiet and sophisticated, with a tea table in its lobby, a Zen garden and periodic art shows catered with wine and cheese from Louie’s Wine Dive. The two-story development, with nearly 200 units, features old railroad tracks that used to run down the Greenway in front of the building.

Its saltwater pool is primarily used for swimming laps, while just up the road, the scene at the Flux building’s pool is sometimes reminiscent of the hard-partying reality television show Jersey Shore.

Greco markets one of its older buildings, Blue, as a more peaceful, Zen milieu where they serve merlot at special events. At Lime, new residents find a six-pack of Corona (with limes, of course) waiting when they move in, as part of efforts to market the building as refreshing and fun.

Social events at Lime include happy hours at Herkimer and Moto-I and breakfasts every Wednesday on the roof. In August, the building also opened a bar and coffee shop, Marche, in the lobby to foster a social atmosphere. The offerings include $8 quiches and $10 Marche Manhattan cocktails.

“I think generally our renters could afford to buy, but they’re typically not deciding whether to rent at one of our buildings … versus buying in a suburb like Eden Prairie or Plymouth,” said Brent Rogers, president of Greco.

“They want to come home, relax, have fun, meet people,” he said. “They don’t necessarily want to mow the lawn and clean out gutters.”

Slightly farther back from the Greenway on Dupont Avenue, the Buzza Lofts have brought new life to the area, along with the Walkway on Lagoon. Developer Stu Ackerberg is also planning to build office space that would look out onto the Greenway.

The wave of new residents has brought with them a lifestyle that is more young, corporate and fun-loving.

“We came here and I was like, ‘Oh my God, all the pretty young people live here!’ ” Crump said of her apartment building.

The new buildings have also coincided with a debate over how to transform the pothole-strewn road along the Greenway into an inviting pedestrian walkway that makes the most of its active new neighbors and extends the bustle further north from Lake Street.

“You’ve got all these wonderful projects, and all these people that live here, and now they’re trying to get to Lake Street to go shopping, go to Cub, all the great new restaurants and everything at Lynn-Lake … and they have to cross over this really ugly street called 29th,” said Jensen, with the Midtown Greenway Coalition.

The city will host its third public meeting in September soliciting suggestions. A plan would be presented to the City Council for approval in the fall, with funding expected in the next year’s budget. For now, though, developers are racing to lease up the rest of their units before the autumn chill.

Elan is continuing to make the Greenway a big selling point, and is joining with Jensen’s organization to host appetizers at a progressive dinner that takes participants to various stops along the trail.

“We’re trying to get out and participate as much as we can,” said assistant manager Matt Johnson. “The competition is definitely fierce.”

 

Maya Rao • 612-673-4210



 

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