U.S. Bank building debate

Last week, we reported that builder M.A. Mortenson wants to redevelop a half-block site in northeast Minneapolis that's anchored by a U.S. Bank branch, a Papa John's restaurant and a surface parking lot. Mortenson wants to build an apartment tower and U.S. Bank, which owns the entire site, wants a new free-standing branch building.

As we said last week, the neighborhood task force rejected the first design because it looked too much like a suburban bank with too much emphasis on parking. The task force wanted the bank building to be connected to, or to be contained within, the tower.

U.S. Bank, however, objects to connecting the buildings. Here are four reasons why:

• Logistics: By federal charter, the bank branch must remain open. But if it were incorporated into the tower, it would have to close because the tower will be situated where the current bank now sits. By remaining separate, U.S. Bank can build its free-standing bank before starting ­construction of the tower.

• Future use: U.S. Bank says that if the bank branch were to close after occupying its new building, the building would need to be repurposed. That prospect would be factored into the design.

• Safety/security: The task force asked U.S. Bank to reduce the number of parking spaces, which it did, but not without some concerns. By shaving off a few parking spaces, some employees might have to park off-property, creating a potential safety issue at various times of the day. Visually screening the parking lot from the street was also an issue because it might create hiding spots. • Precedent: In the past, U.S. Bank has experimented with putting its branches inside existing buildings without success because of issues with visibility and accessibility to drive-through windows.

What's next? The Nicollet Island East Bank Neighborhood Association will meet next week to discuss new plans for the tower.

Jim Buchta