Columbia Heights city leaders are weighing the fate of a proposed 148-unit apartment development that has stirred both criticism and praise in the inner-ring suburb of nearly 20,000 people.
If approved, the project would be the first development of its kind in Columbia Heights in more than 30 years, according to city officials.
Plymouth-based Dominium wants to divide the 148 units over two proposed buildings at 1069 Grandview Way and 4729 Grand Avenue, on land where Kmart once sat. City Council members will consider the developer's site plan Monday night after the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval on Tuesday.
"It's been very closely watched from all sides," Mayor Donna Schmitt said.
Some say the transit-friendly development will help meet the city's critical need for worker housing and attract new families to the aging suburb.
More than half of the city's housing stock was built before 1970, census data show.
"I work with a lot of young, up-and-coming professionals," resident Mary Granlund said at a recent public hearing. "This project is exactly what my colleagues want."
But the $35 million project proposal has also rankled a group of neighbors, who question its density and foresee parking issues.
Residents living in nearby condos say they bought their homes expecting that more condos would be built on the site — not apartments.
At a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday, community members on opposing sides of the issue voiced concerns, with certain comments sparking applause.
"This is a little neighborhood that I invested in because it is unique," Tom Kurak, a condo owner, said at the meeting.
"The owners in that condo building would rather have their original neighborhood built."
The commission had earlier tabled the developer's application, requesting decreased density and parking revisions.
Dominium amended the plan and decreased the proposed units to 148 from 173, which will in turn reduce the $1.4 million previously approved in tax increment financing for the proposed development. The developer also scaled back surface parking, with 47 fewer stalls.
"We don't want to overbuild parking," said Owen Metz, of Dominium. "We want to build what we need."
Metz said the property's access to transit, schools and jobs attracted them to the site.
Dominium has indicated that the housing will be income-restricted and affordable to those living at 60 percent of the area median income, with estimated rents ranging from $939 to $1,297.
Schmitt said she expects the site plan to pass, but it may yield a divided vote.
"The terminology has been what has turned people off," Schmitt said. "They don't like the word 'affordable.' "