Linden Hills development gets Minneapolis Planning Commission's approval

  • Article by: MAYA RAO
  • Star Tribune
  • February 6, 2012 - 11:07 PM

Testimony from opponents of a condo and retail development in Linden Hills -- one of whom called it a "big, mass, giant building" being plopped in their midst -- did not dissuade the Minneapolis Planning Commission from approving the development's plan Monday.

Commissioners voted 6-1 to allow the development, slated for the corner of Upton Avenue S. and W. 43rd Street, to be built at five stories, or 59 feet -- two stories more than city rules allow.

City Council Member Gary Schiff cast the dissenting vote, saying the height was "way beyond the intent" of the site's low-density zoning.

Many opponents agreed. They voiced concern that the project, with 40 residential units and more than 11,000 square feet of commercial space, would disrupt the quaint character of the neighborhood near Lake Harriet.

Planning commissioners also voted for a raft of other approvals sought by developer Mark Dwyer, including setbacks that would increase the distance between the site and adjacent properties.

The developer's plan also calls for acquiring a small park some residents described as beloved; commissioners approved a measure under which the developer would create a new park nearby.

If an appeal is filed, as is likely, the matter would go before the Zoning and Planning Committee chaired by Schiff, then on to the City Council. The council must approve the maneuver involving the park, in which the developer must provide an easement to the city for the area to be vacated.

David Motzenbecker, president of the planning commission, said after the three-hour discussion that he does not think 40 units is "high-density."

"I understand people choose to live in an area because it speaks to something in themselves, and when things come along ... bigger buildings, a different park, anything that might change that, it threatens personal identity."

Some at Monday's meeting accused critics of distorting the project's impact. Supporter John Reinan displayed on a projector an image that appeared to exaggerate the project's size compared to buildings nearby, saying it had appeared on fliers distributed by opponents. He demanded to know if the creator was in the audience, saying the picture resembled either a nuclear plant or "Soviet gulag" architecture. Nobody took credit, and the commission president cut him off.

Maya Rao • 612-673-4210

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