The group that built The Julia, and is working on the Main Street projects at Broadway, also wants to put a five-story building on 13th Avenue next to The Anchor Fish & Chips.
They got a few suggestions from the Minneapolis City Planning Commission Committee of the Whole Aug. 22, and then trotted it out to a Sheridan Neighborhood Organization (SNO) board meeting where more than 120 people turned out. Most of the questions posed were written by audience members and screened by leaders. For the most part, Joy Smallfield, SNO president, kept the crowd orderly though it was obvious most opposed the development disrupting the avenue’s otherwise two-or three-story landscape.
Smallfield said, “We’re not going to stop development, someone’s going to build something sometime.” But she encouraged people to keep asking tough questions to make future developments suit the neighborhood better.
The developer, Solhem, was represented by Curt Gunsbury and Jason Lord, Dan Perkins of Perkins|Levin property management and Alex Krug of Momentum Design.
The building would have one level of parking underground, ground floor parking in the back (some available to other 13th Avenue businesses), and several small commercial spaces with “traditional shop fronts” of wood paneling and awnings in different colors.
An aerial view shows two building masses connected in an H shape, meant to give the 108 apartment units natural light, and more of a set-back courtyard feel, inviting 13th Avenue pedestrians to explore the stores on the ground floor. There would be several size variations within each apartment type, ranging from alcove to two bedrooms, one bath. Studio apartments would rent for $1,100 a month.
The 102 available parking spaces, about twice what the city requires, would rent separately for $125 to $175 a month or could be included in higher rent.
The project would need a city conditional use permit to go to five stories (four residential on top of the concrete “parking podium”). They would need city variances to put the building within 5 feet of the lot line on the back and sides, and another for the courtyard effect in front.
Third Ward City Council Member Steve Fletcher offered some observations and context, saying, “We should have high expectations, and we’re desperately trying to get affordable housing. Sheridan has been consistent” in that desire. He said he is not opposed to density “if it is housing and retail that makes sense,” and told the group “it would be okay to wait for something” that includes affordable units which would qualify for a “density bonus.”
(The city is working on an ordinance that would require all developments to factor in some “affordable” units. It’s been alleged that the rash of proposal activity is fueled by developers hoping to get in the pipeline before that requirement kicks in.)
The developers were particularly interested in talking to immediate neighbors who would have the direct view of the parking podium walls and landscaping. They said they would want to meet with businesses, but did not commit to participating ongoing in any organizations such as SNO, Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association or the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District. Gunsbury stated their projects have an average $200,000 budget for art, and that most of it would be spent locally, in Minneapolis at least.
See the editorial on page 2 of this Northeaster for insight on how market-rate and luxury apartments work, taken from the discussion at this meeting. Various other points brought out through the questions are listed at the end of this article.
Toward the end of the meeting, a question was asked: “Why do you want to be here and what would you do to preserve our history?”
Gunsbury answered, “Danny brought it to me, and I didn’t want to do it because I thought the neighbors would hang me out to dry. Drew [Levin, of Perkins|Levin] said we should put our best foot forward so we did that. I want a building I can be proud of. A beautiful place to live.”
It’s unclear whether the developers will ultimately pursue the project. They said they have purchase agreements on the properties though apparently haven’t closed yet. Hennepin County records show the owner of the parking lot at 318 13th is also the owner of the 1304 University Avenue building that houses Erte, Northeast Properties LLC, and Tim Mershon owns the duplex next door. The duplexes closest to The Anchor appear to be owner occupied, one having been purchased in 2004 and the other in 2006, the market value on each, and Mershon’s, is about $300,00.
Solhem’s answers to other questions, summarized:
Mitigating stormwater? Best management practices such as rain barrels and slow release holding.
Can you build to higher energy standards? We do, we exceed Xcel standards by 40%.
Using union labor? Yes, 97% of the work; 3% might not, mostly in landscaping, because of a shortage of contractors.
Address the city’s equity concerns? Construction trades are one of the best places for diverse people to enter the workforce. Our tenants are very diverse.
Where are your investors from? All over the country, mostly Carlton College friends who have moved around, Gunsbury said. “I’m from Nisswa, Minnesota so I totally get the really small town.”
How do you assure the businesses will be local, not franchises? The spaces are about 1,000 square feet each, and are not live/work because the Committee of the Whole requested commercial only. The small shops tend to be incubators and will see turnover at first. Predicting $16/sq. ft. compared to $19 to $26/sq. ft in the corridor for improved spaces.
Why didn’t you go for the University corner? There was an opportunity to make the project larger but we thought this would be the best fit.
Below, scene at the August 26 Sheridan Neighborhood Organization board meeting where Solhem presented a plan to build on 13th Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Damian Kussian)