Loring condo tower developer loses city appeal; East Bank condos get extra floor

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September 20, 2004 // UPDATED 4:07 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

The City Council's Zoning and Planning Committee rejected a developer's appeal to move forward with a 21-story Loring Park condo tower at a Sept. 15 public hearing.

The committee affirmed an earlier Planning Commission decision that rejected Wayzata-based Continental Property Group's proposal for a 104-unit tower with adjacent three-story town homes at 401 Oak Grove St. in the Loring Hill section of the neighborhood.

The committee agreed with Commissioners who voted against the tower, finding it out of context with the area's shorter residential buildings. Three- to six-story buildings dominate the Loring Hill neighborhood east of the park with the exception of the 23- and 20-story Summit House condo towers, 400 Groveland Ave.

The height guideline for the site is 2.5 stories because the parcel falls within 1,000 feet of Loring Pond, which triggers the city's Shoreland Overlay ordinance.

Peter Coyle, an attorney representing Continental Property Group's Brad Hoyt, argued the city has inconsistently applied neighborhood height standards, pointing to other recent developments that exceed 2.5 stories, such as the five-story condo project at 301 Oak Grove St.

Coyle also pointed to the city's support of the 27-story Grant Park condo tower in Elliot Park and other city policies favoring increased density.

Senior city planner Becca Farrar, who reviewed the developer's permit application, needed to overcome the zoning code's height restrictions, countered that proposed developments are reviewed based on the neighborhood and surrounding architecture.

Elliot Park, which is south of the Metrodome, is closer to the urban core that has fewer height limitations. Neighborhood leaders there have also generally supported high rises to spur economic activity, unlike in Loring Park.

City Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward), who represents Loring Park, also challenged the developer's appeal, arguing that density does not have to translate to a high rise.

She also criticized the developer for failing to modify the proposal to meet the zoning code and respect the neighborhood's wishes. More than 600 people signed a petition calling for a tower with a maximum height of six stories, or 84 feet.

Opponents of the 21-story proposal said it would dwarf neighboring historic mansions and spoil the area's charm and character.

"This is a neighborhood that has fought for its historic character," Goodman said.

Hoyt said he would sue the city if the full Council rejects the appeal.

The Zoning and Planning Committee also considered an appeal by Lupe Development Partners/Bluff Street LLC objecting to a four-story height restriction by the city's Heritage Preservation Commission for a proposed residential building on the river's East Bank.

Steve Minn, a Bluff Street principle, has proposed an eight-story building for 520-521 SE 2nd St. near the Pillsbury "A" Mill.

The committee approved a motion allowing for a five-story building, or 63 feet.

Minn, a former City Councilmember, also developed the neighboring Stone Arch Apartments at 601-701 Main St. SE, which attracted intense neighborhood opposition. Metal-Matic, a neighboring pipe manufacturer sued the city when it rezoned the area for residents.

The full City Council will consider the committee's actions Friday, Sept. 24.