A group of neighbors lost an appeal Monday to stop construction of an apartment complex by the “Witch’s Hat” tower in Minneapolis, which they had argued would block key views from its observation deck.
The group, Friends of Tower Hill Park, filed a lawsuit in December 2018 saying a 14-story project proposed along University Avenue violated the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act. The suit said the project would block the observation deck views from the water tower to the State Capitol and the Cathedral of St. Paul.
Vermilion Development, the developers, argued their project would not block views of downtown St. Paul. A district court dismissed the neighborhood group’s action last year after Vermilion said the project and its impact on any views had already gone through an extensive vetting process with the City Council and the city’s planning commission.
Writing for the court, Appeals Court Judge Louise Dovre Bjorkman on Monday affirmed the lower court’s decision. Ari Parritz, Minnesota development director for Vermilion, said he was excited to move on from the lawsuit and start construction.
“Friends of Tower Hill Park had their concerns about Witch’s Hat ... raised, heard, deliberated,” he said. “The court said, ‘You guys had your bite of the apple. No more.’ ”
A representative for Friends of Tower Hill Park could not be reached for comment.
Vermilion had hoped to break ground in early 2019. It is now looking to do so around May, Parritz said.
The project has changed since the initial lawsuit. It no longer includes any condominiums and is increasing from 208 to 256 apartment units, Parritz said. It is also slightly shorter and narrower, he said.
The amended project was approved by the planning commission last month. Some neighbors plan to appeal the decision at the council’s zoning and planning committee meeting Thursday, Parritz said.
The 110-foot Witch’s Hat tower was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. It opens its observation deck to the public just once a year.