City council actions :: Window recession

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May 24, 2010
By: Cristof Traudes
Cristof Traudes
May 14 meeting

Recession of windows splits council’s vote

It came down to a question of recession.

When determining whether a proposed seven-story apartment building at 5th Avenue and 2nd Street Southeast should be allowed to skew from historical guidelines, it was the windows that left the City Council divided. Should the building’s look emulate much of the district, with windows pushed in 3 inches, or could it be sleeker and more modern with no window recession?

Developer Jack Boarman and the BKV Group were seeking the latter, but Council Member Gary Schiff (9th Ward), chairman of the council’s Zoning and Planning Committee, strongly preferred the former. To Schiff, allowing a development in that area to have a flat look would be anything but a minor action, setting a distinct precedent for future construction. Its neighbors, including still-unbuilt projects such as the approved Pillsbury A Mill development, have recessed windows.

Boarman’s trip to the City Council started with an application to the Heritage Preservation Commission, which evaluates projects on their historical appropriateness, to receive permission to demolish the Union Railway Storage Company building currently located at the site. To get the commission’s certificate of appropriateness, the developer had to show that the new building would still be compatible within the area in which it would stand, the St. Anthony Falls Historic District. And that’s where the windows came into play: The commission made it a condition that, to allow demolition, the windows would have to be recessed.

Boarman wanted a second opinion from the City Council. That’s where he ran into council members such as Schiff and Diane Hofstede, whose 3rd Ward would contain the apartment building.

“I don’t think there’s anything special about this project, and I don’t think there’s anything special about this developer that they should be allowed solely to be excused from the Heritage Preservation Committee guidelines,” Schiff said.

But others on the council disagreed. Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) noted that the proposed building’s lower levels would fit the district because of a brick look. Recessed windows, she added, also have proven to sometimes have problems with leaks.

“It’s not like we’ve kept it completely consistent, that it must be this way every time for every developer,” Goodman said about past development approvals in the district. “We’ve kind of picked and [chosen] along the way.”

Ultimately, the flat side won. Council members voted 6-5 to strike down the recession condition, not to the liking of Hofstede.

“Flat buildings,” she said, “they just look so flat.”

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Police budget checks in with good news

If a report in May projecting the end of December is any indication, the Minneapolis Police Department could find 2010 to be a solid budget year.

Checking in with the City Council’s Ways and Means Committee, Deputy Chief Scott Gerlicher said the department currently looks like it could underspend its budget by $1.26 million. That’s a reverse from recent years; in 2009, the department overspent by $3 million.

There are a number of drivers at play this year, Gerlicher said, but two key factors have been overtime — which has seen a 20 percent drop — and vehicle idling, which is down as much as 30 percent.

The police department is expected to have its budget be $8.6 million lighter by the end of 2011. It’s already $7.3 million down that road, Gerlicher said.

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Health Committee has resolution brushed up

The City Council unanimously adopted a number of small changes to the resolution that sets forth the responsibilities and composition of the Public Health Advisory Committee.

Among the changes, the 22-member board was shaved down to 20 members. Technically, there was always a 20-plus-two make-up of the board, Health Commissioner Gretchen Musicant said, with “the two” being members of the Urban Health Professional Committee who also served on the health advisory committee. Because of regular continuity issues with those two spots, Musicant said, the new language should better represent their presence.

Also added was language that allows the mayor to appoint a committee member who lives outside of the city, as long as he or she works in Minneapolis.