Loring Park reviews Eitel Hospital, 20-story-tower projects

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July 12, 2004 // UPDATED 2:30 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

The healthcare nonprofit Allina has signed a purchase agreement with two out-of-town developers who plan to work together to redevelop Loring Park's old Eitel Hospital.

Detroit-based Village Green, the developer behind the Loring Park City Apartments, 1300 Yale Place, plans to work with Chicago-based Magellan Development Corp. and the neighborhood group Citizens for a Loring Park Community (CLPC) on a proposal for a condo-apartment mix at 1375 Willow St.

Kendra Calhoun, an Allina spokeswoman, said the purchase agreement for the 2.5-acre, 130,000-square-foot site should be final by the end of July.

She would not disclose the sale price. Earlier this year, an Allina statement indicated the old hospital was on the market for $7 million. The healthcare nonprofit also plans to sell a Stevens Square property at 1801 Nicollet Ave.

The effort to sell the two properties is a byproduct of Allina's decision to move its headquarters to the South Minneapolis Sears complex.

The Willow Street site serves as an office for about 300 Allina information-systems employees. Calhoun said the employees will remain there until March 2006.

CLPC plans to develop some guidelines for the housing proposal, which will likely include 200 to 400 housing units. Neighborhood leaders said they want to be proactive in working with the developer, instead of reacting to a plan.

CLPC President John Van Heel, along with board members Kim Havey and Robert Cook, are working on drafting the guidelines for the proposal.

"We are in the process of putting together a task force made up of a broad cross-section of the community," Van Heel said.

At a recent neighborhood meeting, Van Heel and Havey sought input from residents on proposed redevelopment of the old hospital that sits across the street from Loring Park's eastern border. The neighborhood group is pushing for more area parking and preserving the original hospital.

Some residents asked for more affordable housing -- something that would be in the range of lower income workers (those who make $26,00 or less).

The discussion on Eitel's redevelopment followed an update on the new Parc Centrale condo tower planned for 401 Oak Grove St.

Wayzata-based developer Brad Hoyt of Continental Development Corp. is moving forward with a 20-story tower on a vacant parking lot across the street from the Woman's Club of Minneapolis, 410 Oak Grove St.

Hoyt is working with Downtown-based architectural firm Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle on the proposal.

Some residents have voiced strong opposition to the project, arguing that it is too tall compared to smaller historic homes and mansions in the vicinity.

About 100 residents have signed a petition calling for city officials to oppose the project, saying it sets a "dangerous" precedent for high-rises around Loring Park.

Hoyt said his decision to move forward with a taller tower is rooted in aesthetics. Project architects have described a "point tower" concept in which a relatively slender tower rises from a blockier base. Such a design, they say, makes the tower less noticeable in favor of the base that fits in with surrounding, shorter buildings.

"I was influenced by suggestions that a 15-story 'stocky' building is less elegant and dynamic than a taller and slender form," he said. "The issue really boils down to one of proper proportion and scale. ... I believe the design and the neighborhood are much better for it."

Others have dismissed the suggestion, arguing most developers build taller to maximize profits.