Two towers with at least 450 apartments or condominiums atop dozens of shops and restaurants could replace a once-polluted two-block site in northeast Minneapolis.
That’s according to preliminary plans presented Wednesday night at a neighborhood meeting where Peter Chmielewski, a senior development manager with Lennar Multifamily Communities, showed color renderings of a sleek tower with at least 17 stories surrounded by low-rise commercial space. Depending on market conditions, a second phase on the adjacent block could include a matching tower.
Lennar has a purchase agreement to buy the property that will expire on Jan. 7. Because the deal isn’t yet done, the company wouldn’t divulge additional details.
“Generally, I was quite impressed with the design,” said P. Victor Grambsch, president of the Nicollet Island-East Bank Neighborhood Association. “In a perfect world we might like to see more density, but we’re close.”
The high-profile site at the busy corner of 1st Avenue and University Avenue NE. just a couple of blocks from the Mississippi River has been the source of intense speculation by a number of local and national developers since the Superior Plating factory was razed several years ago. Industrial contaminants were removed from the site.
Several developers have come forward with proposals for the site, but because of its size and location, neighbors and area advocates have been discriminating. A Florida developer, for example, planned to buy the site and build a six-story, wood-framed apartment building, but the proposal didn’t pass muster because it wasn’t tall or dense enough.
“We’re not accepting anything less than extraordinary,” City Council Member Jacob Frey said. “We’re willing to hold out for just the right project.”
Frey identified several key priorities for the five-acre site, which is surrounded by shops and housing. He said he wants the project to be pedestrian-friendly and have ample green spaces, especially in an area that used be a street that cut through the middle of the two blocks. He also wants the commercial spaces to be a bit more compact than proposed to make them more suitable to a variety of small, local businesses that don’t need or can’t afford bigger spaces.
Lennar, a division of the giant Miami-based national homebuilder, is a relative new comer to urban multifamily sector. The company has several projects underway in the metro, including an apartment project near Southdale Center and another at Bloomington Central Station not far from the Mall of America. The company is working with Minneapolis-based Elness Swenson Graham Architects, which has become one of the most prolific apartment designers in the region.
“Although everything is preliminary at this point we’re definitely on the right track,” said Frey. “We’re five miles into a 26-mile race and feeling pretty good at this point.”