The challenge: Vince Leo and Susan Calmenson had finally found a house that met nearly all of the items on their checklist. The 1920s cottage sat on a bluff overlooking Minnehaha Creek in south Minneapolis. The residence had been expanded and updated, with a thoughtful addition designed by architect/homeowners Todd Hansen and Christine Albertsson. There was off-street parking and a little storage shed. But without a garage, Leo and Calmenson had reservations about buying. “We wanted a two-car garage,” said Leo. “But there wasn’t enough space to build one.”


The design team: Architects Todd Hansen and Tammy Angaran, Albertsson Hansen Architecture, Minneapolis, 612-823-0233,


The solution: Hansen included architectural services in the purchase agreement — to design a garage that would meet the requirements to obtain setback variances, as well as housing two cars.

The 60-foot-wide city lot doesn’t have an alley. Since there wasn’t enough room for a conventional two-car garage or a tandem garage, “the only place to go was up,” said Hansen. He designed an attached garage that holds two cars stacked on top of each other. A steel hydraulic lift raises and lowers the top car. The garage door is only 8-by-8 feet. “At first, I thought the idea was crazy,” said Leo. “I thought it was going to be much more expensive and complicated than it really was.”


Modified roof: Hansen structured the roof with a ridge beam and rafters instead of the standard trusses, in order to use the full roof height for the lift. The new garage is painted the same color red as the home addition, completed years earlier by Albertsson Hansen.


Cold-weather worry: After the first few weeks, Leo and Calmenson got into the rhythm of driving one car out of the garage and then lowering the other car to the ground. Their only concern was the operation of the hydraulic motor when the temperature was below freezing — which this past winter was often. “I was worried that my car might get stuck up there,” said Leo. That never happened. The hydraulic lift just moved slower on extremely cold days. “Having the car in the garage this winter was worth every extra second to get it down,” said Leo.


Big result: The garage solution is one example of how to make the most of a small city lot, said Hansen. “It holds two cars but costs less than a two-car garage. And it has a smaller footprint on an urban property.”