UPDATED: Linden Hills Development Shot Down; Developer Vows To Continue
Neighborhood organization has plans for open house this weekend.
The controversial France Avenue Apartments may be down following Monday's Minneapolis Planning Commission vote, but it's by no means out.
"We intend to come back in the next six weeks(...)with a plan that we hope will win the hearts and minds of the Minneapolis City Council," said James Erickson, a consultant representing developer Scott Carlston at the hearing.
Translation: We just might appeal the Commission's 6-1 vote. Erickson said the develoment team would also try to work with the community on changes to the design.
Unlike March's Linden Corner hearing, the 62-unit building got a rough reception from the Commission, with only one of the commissioners present piping up in favor. The rest sided with Linden Hills residents calling the building "too large" for its location, and saying it didn't fit the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan, because it wasn't fully within the city-defined "neighborhood commercial node" at 44th and France.
"As-of-right, you can build the same height only one property away," Commission President David Motzenbecker said. "The place on the block is the only reason why it is here today."
The residents testifying were a bit more strident in their opposition, to put it mildly. One even said approving Nicollet Apartments would strip neighboring homeowners of the value of their houses, while another called the building's many east-facing balconies and windows an invasion of privacy.
The building's size stemmed partly from "density bonuses" for including affordable housing and enclosed parking in its design. Furthermore, the development's site is sloped, making its first floor appear to be at the level of a second floor when viewed from France Avenue.
Several commissioners seemed to look at the development as a cautionary tale as the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council puts together a "small area plan" that would restrict the kinds of buildings that could go up in the neighborhood's commercial areas.
"Edina is where the money is going. That's where the tax base is being enhanced" because of less restrictive zoning, Councilmember Gary Schiff (Ward 9) said.
Commissioner Theodore Tucker urged Linden Hills residents to produce "a plan not for stagnation but a plan for growth."
"This investment's going to go somewhere and we want it to go into Minneapolis and not into Edina," he added.
The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council is also planning an open house on the project this Sunday, April 29, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Pershing Park.
Tangletown Appartments Approved
At the same meeting, the Planning Commission approved Carlston's other Southwest Minneapolis project, the Nicollet Apartments. While several business owners from the 54th and Nicollet area protested, citing potential parking problems and the extreme short notice they'd been given about the project, commissioners voted unanimously.
"I'd like to note that this is for a three-foot height increase" beyond what is allowed as-of-right, said Schiff. "We've denied them before and made them lower each floor by one foot each. The result is less quality housing."
Carlston had been seeking conditional use permit for increased height, and two variences impacting elements of the building's facade and letting him increase the number of units in the building to 45.
Update 11:19 a.m. 4-24-12: Developer Scott Carlston tells the Southwest Journal that neighborhood leaders won't discuss modifications to the project with him.
“I think that we can still have a situation this is beneficial to everybody,” Carlston said. “If we were able to remove a floor, that could be a win-win for everybody.”
Carlston said he has had difficulty getting neighborhood leaders to discuss the project with him, however. And the project comes as neighborhood leaders move to create a small area plan that would spell out the kind of development residents want to see in the community.