More details emerge on proposed 35-story tower

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August 26, 2014
By: Ben Johnson
A look at the tower's effect on the skyline from the east
City of Minneapolis
Ben Johnson

Local developer Bob Lux and staff from Alatus have been visiting different neighborhood groups over the last few weeks to get feedback and garner support for the proposed 35-story residential tower at the corner of Central Avenue and 2nd St. SE.

Currently the site is home to the St. Anthony Athletic Club, a Washburn-McReavy funeral chapel and approximately 45 units of surface parking. Originally the development team planned on saving one or both of the buildings and incorporating them into the project, but after speaking with neighbors Lux said he feels neither building is historically significant and both will likely be demolished.

Lux said Washburn-McReavy owner Bill McReavy originally pitched selling the land for a redevelopment years ago, when McReavy bought a condo in The Carlyle, another of Lux’s developments.

The project was first presented to the city as a building rising between 25 and 35 stories. Its height was briefly increased to 40 stories before settling back to 35, where it’s “locked in” barring any city-mandated alterations.

At 35 stories the project would contain either 185 condos or 250 apartments. Lux said he hasn’t decided which route he will take yet, but members of the Nicollet Island East Bank Neighborhood Association have a longstanding preference toward condos, believing condo owners bring more stability to the neighborhood.

Alatus has worked out a 99-year lease with the owner of the adjacent St. Anthony Main parking ramp to use 300 of its 900 spaces for residents of the tower.

Alatus tried to buy the ramp but its owners refused, so now Alatus is moving forward with a plan to wrap part of the ramp with 11 townhomes in an attempt to shield its drab façade.

A street-level rendering of Central and 2nd St. SE

Most of Alatus’s presentation focused on its desire to add to the street-level vibrancy of the area. At the ground level, a 7,000-square-foot “destination restaurant” is planned and Lux said he’s reached out to Ryan Burnet, creator of Barrio, Bar La Grassa and Burch Steak, to plan a new concept for the space, although nothing is official yet. Burnet has signed on to develop a new restaurant at Latitude 45, another Alatus project that broke ground last spring.

Preliminary plans show ample outdoor seating primarily along 2nd Street and potentially wrapping around to Central, with a “substantial” piece of public art planned for the corner of 2nd Street and Central. The entire site has a 34,000-square-foot footprint, and the base of the tower will take up 16,000-18,000 square feet, leaving room for a 15-foot setback from the street.

Restaurant deliveries and other drop-offs and pick-ups would be handled by a U-shaped driveway/parklet accessible off of 2nd Street. Although Alatus staff often referred to it as a pocket park, they will not seek a parkland dedication fee exception for the space. Alatus staff estimated they will pay roughly $300,000 in parkland dedication fees for the project.

An elevated view of the driveway/parklet

Lux said the design team, led by David Graham of ESG Architects, is still debating between a glassy, light, contemporary look and a more classical, heavier, symmetrical design. Graham said they’re leaning toward the glassy, contemporary design after speaking with neighbors.

Two neighborhood associations have unanimously passed resolutions supporting the project.

The site is within the St. Anthony Falls Historic District, so the project will be subject to review by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). In the historic district buildings are limited to eight stories, so obtaining a variance that more than quadruples that limit may run into some resistance from the HPC.

However, the HPC is only an advisory board; City Council is the only municipal body that has the power to approve or deny the project, and Ward 3 City Council Member Jacob Frey is a big supporter of the proposal.

Earlier this year the HPC was overruled by City Council after it tried to prevent the demolition of the Star Tribune headquarters as part of the massive Downtown East redevelopment.

Lux said he would return to the neighborhood with a finalized design over the winter, and if everything goes smoothly ground could be broken as early as next spring. Construction is expected to take 18-22 months.

Ben Johnson // 612-436-5088 // // @johnsonbend