Plans for a large development in Uptown are moving forward at Minneapolis City Hall despite vigorous opposition from neighbors.
The developers — Ryan Companies and Wiedner Apartment Homes — want to replace the Sons of Norway building and surface parking lots on W. Lake Street with two buildings with 319 apartments and 23,000 square feet of commercial space.
The Sons of Norway sold the building to the developers last summer, and the city Planning Commission in January approved a request to rezone part of the block from medium- to high-density residential to allow for the six-story project.
The site is four blocks from Bde Maka Ska, formerly known as Lake Calhoun, and has set off the latest in a series of battles between city leaders who want to promote housing density as an antidote to the city’s lack of affordable housing, and residents who say such changes will harm their neighborhood.
Residents started a postcard-writing campaign opposing the project, and one couple — Tamara Kaiser and Erik Storlie, who live two blocks south of Lake Street — sent a 3,875-word open letter to the City Council citing “grave concerns” about the project and the city’s response to their objections.
They say they understand that more housing supply should drive down rental prices, but they argue it’s not happening in this case, because the development is the result of real estate speculation and is driving prices up. And they worry that their neighborhood will lose its character.
“We could put 10-story apartments everywhere, but you’re destroying the very thing that over a century has made the neighborhood attractive,” Storlie said.
Council President Lisa Bender, a proponent of density whose 10th Ward includes the East Calhoun neighborhood, said she’s heard both support and opposition to the proposal.
“Many constituents recognize the need for more housing units as our city grows and we face a rental housing shortage, and I am also hearing concerns about traffic and parking impacts of new residents,” Bender said in a statement.
The Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association wrote a letter of support, and a smattering of letters from residents welcome the development.
Blue Delliquanti, a renter who lives a few blocks to the southeast, said she is unlikely to ever buy a house, and people like her need more apartments in Uptown if they are to live there and enjoy being near the lake.
“Quite frankly, I think the 323 parking spaces available under this proposal is more than sufficient for the amount of units and the suggested amount of renters,” she said. “And I think this will not hamper the livability of the neighborhood, but will in fact be a great asset.”
The East Calhoun Community Organization is appealing the rezoning decision, arguing the development would bring more traffic and parking problems, create a “canyon effect” for nearby homes and drive up rents in the area. Uptown has had enough, the group said.
“While we recognize the desire of the city to facilitate new housing construction, we feel developers are excessively targeting this desirable neighborhood such that it will become undesirable,” wrote Ralph Knox, the organization’s president.
The neighborhood’s appeal of the rezoning will go before the City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee on Feb. 15.