At a standing-room-only meeting, the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission on Tuesday voted in favor of allowing a developer to demolish two buildings but denied a request to build a 40-story condo tower across the Mississippi River from downtown.
Minneapolis-based Alatus LLC wants to build the tower on a quarter-block site — now home to the Washburn-McReavy Funeral Chapel at 200 Central Av. SE. and the St. Anthony Commercial Club at 113 SE. 2nd St. The site is within the St. Anthony Falls Historic District, which has guidelines that limit the height, scale and other attributes of development in the area.
The Alatus plans call for 207 for-sale condominiums, 6,700 square feet of ground-floor retail and 333 parking spaces.
A staff report from the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development recommended that the Preservation Commission allow the demolition of the Washburn-McReavy building and issue a certificate of appropriateness for the tower. After lengthy discussion and passionate public testimony about whether the neighborhood was a suitable site for such a project, six members of the commission with one abstaining agreed, with a caveat that the developer try for six months to find someone to move and reuse the building. In a second vote, six members voted to deny a certificate of appropriateness to build the tower.
A hearing that was originally scheduled for April 5 was delayed after a group called Neighbors for East Bank Livability filed a petition with the city’s Environmental Quality Board. Among their concerns are the height and scale of the building, which is a block from the historic Pillsbury Library Building and the Ard Godfrey House, the oldest wood-framed house in the city.
Tuesday evening, a number of residents said such projects threaten to erode the quality and character of the neighborhood.
Erin Harney, a spokeswoman for Neighbors for East Bank Livability, said tall buildings exceeding the district requirements are better suited for the downtown side of the river. “Our primary concern is that this is a historic district and the building, while beautiful in design, is not correct historically,” she said. “We don’t feel that a project that’s this transformative is right for this neighborhood.”
The decision comes at a time of heightened concerns about how development is affecting a part of the city that is dominated by turn-of-the-century houses and storefronts, and a handful of high-rise condo and apartment buildings built in the 1980s. Last year, for example, a plan to build a luxury high-rise on the site of Nye’s Polonaise Room was scuttled after opposition from several constituents, including a historic church next door.
Decisions by the Preservation Commission, a citizens advisory board, can be appealed to the City Council.
Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376