Neighborhood support for a plan to build a high-rise on the Nye's Polonaise restaurant site has stalled amid growing concerns over its impact on nearby buildings.
Minneapolis-based developer Schafer Richardson, in partnership with Nye's owners Rob and Tony Jacobs, in December announced they would redevelop the popular restaurant and piano bar just north of downtown.
They quickly won support from the neighborhood association for its 30-story glassy residential and retail tower, including a spendy effort to salvage two of the Nye's structures. But some neighbors, including members of a landmark church, thought the group acted too quickly.
"The pause button has essentially been hit," Barry Clegg, vice president of the Nicollet Island-East Bank Neighborhood Association, said Thursday.
About 85 neighborhood residents appeared at the association's board meeting Wednesday night to discuss two grievances filed against the organization.
Opponents have also petitioned the City of Minneapolis to conduct an environmental review of the site before the project moves forward. The association agreed to table its approval until that review is conducted, which could last four to five months.
Maureen Michalski, senior project manager for Schafer Richardson, said the company "has a reputation of engaging with communities to work through challenges."
"It's a complex project, and we want to carefully consider the stakeholder interest," she said. "There are so many different groups that are involved that have opinions that we really have to work through that process to come to some consensus."
The grievances were filed in tandem with efforts by Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, which is next door to Nye's, to slow down the process and conduct more due diligence.
About 200 parishioners and neighbors gathered last week for a fundraiser and meeting at the church, which is the oldest continuously operating church in Minneapolis. Prominent parishioners of the church are seeking legal and architectural help to challenge the project.
"Many people have gotten the impression that this development is a done deal," the Rev. Dan Griffith told the packed room. "I think the turnout speaks otherwise."
Leaders of a church committee have two primary concerns: That the tower's height will dwarf the church and that construction activity will damage the 158-year old structure.
"From a development perspective, it needs to be done in a way that is consistent with the historic guidelines that are intended to keep the size of structures in proportion to the historic buildings," said Tom Johnson, a neighborhood resident for 30 years and former Hennepin County Attorney.
Several members of the opposition cite the guidelines for the St. Anthony Falls Historic Area that established a maximum height of just four stories for the area. If there is a significant step back from the street, then it can reach 10 stories. Those guidelines are somewhat flexible, however, and several tall towers already grace the riverfront.
Buildings with the zoning of the Nye's site can seek permission from the City Council to exceed the height restrictions, a process that is not uncommon.
"The neighborhood and the church are very much supportive of seeing this site redeveloped. The real issue is what is appropriate for the site," said Mike Erlandson, who was hired by the church and neighbors to handle public relations.
Former Mayor Al Hofstede is also member of the advisory committee. Other former politicos at the meeting included former City Council members John Derus and Diane Hofstede.
When the nearby Riverplace parking garage was built, it caused $230,000 in structural damage to the church. The scars are visible in the church's basement, where cables run across the ceiling to hold walls in place.
For now, the groups will wait for the City of Minneapolis to decide whether or not to conduct an environmental review.
"If the city doesn't do it, they can sue the city," Clegg said, but he added he believes it is unlikely the city will reject the petition.
The development proposal hasn't entered the formal city process yet. Schafer Richardson said it plans to go to the Planning Commission's Committee of the Whole hearing on April 16 for an informal discussion of the project.
Eric Roper contributed to this report.