A Minneapolis developer is scrapping its plan for a high-rise on the site of Nye's Polonaise Room and now plans a different makeover of the bar and restaurant along with a shorter apartment building.
After facing strong neighborhood resistance to its original plan for a 29-story tower, developer Schafer Richardson is proposing a six-story apartment building on a part of the block now used for a surface parking lot.
Meanwhile, the two historic Nye's buildings, currently linked by a third structure, would be preserved in their current location but a new middle structure would be built. In the original plan, the developer planned to eliminate the third building and move the two historic buildings next to each other.
"We are excited about it. We think this plan responds to the stakeholders' desires and believe it will be a great asset to the community," said Maureen Michalski of Schafer Richardson. "It provides more residential in the community and that helps activate the street. And it removes the surface parking lot, replacing it with active uses."
Last December, Nye's owners — brothers Rob and Tony Jacob — announced plans to shutter the historic piano bar and restaurant to partner with the developer on a new project. But the proposal has been the subject of a contentious public debate.
The site's influential neighbor, Our Lady of Lourdes, initially expressed concern that the construction would cause damage to the historic church's foundation but later shifted its opposition to the height, saying it was not appropriate for the historic district. Meanwhile, neighbors debated whether the project should add housing density or charming character to the area.
"The revised proposal is a positive step, and we are pleased the owners and developer have responded to the concerns voiced by the neighborhood and parish," said the Rev. Dan Griffith of Our Lady of Lourdes. "There is much to be learned, but we believe all parties can work with the six-story building that is now proposed."
Schafer Richardson is still refining its plan but said the materials will reflect the masonry of the historic district with some contemporary interpretation. Michalski added that the group will renovate the existing Nye's buildings, which no longer reflect their original appearance. The old buildings have a fortresslike front, but new renderings of the plan show more glass and transparent entrances at street level.
The development will include retail space on the lower levels and 71 apartments between the old and new structures.
Parking became a point of design contention, as the original proposal had several levels of aboveground parking.
The parking would now be underground with a portion above grade, but tucked out of sight behind 8,800 square feet of retail space.
"The challenge with the site has been to make the project financially viable without the height, but our partners are there," Michalski said.
Schafer Richardson hopes to glean useful feedback at a joint meeting on Sept. 24 between the Historic Preservation Committee and the Planning Commission Committee of the Whole. If all goes as planned, the developer aims to break ground next summer and open in 2017.