Controversial Loring tower gets Planning Commission review

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August 16, 2004 // UPDATED 3:24 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

The city's Planning Commission will review a proposed 21-story Loring Park condo tower called Parc Centrale on Monday, Aug. 23.

The tower would replace a parking lot at 401 Oak Grove St. across from the Woman's Club of Minneapolis, 410 Oak Grove St., and an office building at 430 Oak Grove St.

Although the neighborhood group, Citizens for a Loring Park Community (CLPC), voted Aug. 9 not to oppose the tower, it has attracted opposition from over 500 people. They have signed a petition urging city officials to reject a tower taller than the city's zoning code guidelines for the area, said Mike Marn, a resident leading an opposition group.

The height limit for the site is 2.5 stories because the lot falls within 1,000 feet of Loring Pond, said Senior City Planner Becca Farrar, who is preparing a report for the Planning Commission on the proposal. To overcome the height restriction, developer Brad Hoyt of Wayzata-based Continental Development Corp. is seeking a conditional-use permit. If rejected, he can appeal to the City Council.

Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, the Downtown-based architectural firm, is designing the tower.

At the Aug. 9 CLPC meeting, Hoyt said he's committed to the project despite rumors he might pull out. He said other developers have approached him with offers on the site. Interested parties include Detroit-based Village Green and Chicago-based Magellan Development Corp., developers that recently agreed to buy and redevelop Allina's Eitel Hospital site on Willow Street for housing.

Farrar said she is in discussions with other planning staff about whether to recommend approval of Hoyt's proposal for the tower. She said she also received a handful of neighborhood e-mails supporting Parc Centrale.

She said planners consider several factors when dealing with height issues, including what kind of shadows the building will cast on its surroundings and its context in the neighborhood.

The area, which is south of the park, has become a magnet for developers. CLPC's board of directors passed a motion Aug. 9 calling for city officials to issue a small-area study of Loring Park Hill (Lyndale to LaSalle avenues and West 15th Street to Interstate 94) to help evaluate future proposals.

Besides Parc Centrale, there are two other projects in the pipeline: The Groveland, a seven-story, 135-unit condo development by St. Louis Park-based Steven Scott Management, Inc. at 317 Groveland Ave., and a proposed condo redevelopment by developer Dan Hunt for the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota site at 1730 Clifton Place.

A 59-unit condo project by Roseville-based Mendota Homes is also under construction at 301 Oak Grove St.

City Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) advised neighborhood leaders to consider crafting a plan for Loring Park with NRP Phase II dollars. Other Downtown neighborhoods have used NRP money to fund such plans. "It's a crying shame there is not a plan. There is constant construction in that area," she said.

Despite pleas from a group of vocal residents opposed to the tower, the CLPC board voted down a motion opposing the Parc Centrale proposal 5-4. Board members who spoke in favor of the tower argued the city needs more taxpayers and called the development a natural trend in an urban neighborhood.

The vote came after nearly two hours of heated discussion and statements from residents who raised concerns about gentrification and an erosion of the neighborhood's character.

The Aug. 23 Planning Commission meeting will be held 4:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber, room 317, City Hall, 350 S. 5th St.