Development Roundup: Elliot Park condo project undergoes another redesign

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January 8, 2007 // UPDATED 10:57 am - April 26, 2007
By: Michelle Bruch
Michelle Bruch

Elliot Park

The third redesign of a condo project in Elliot Park met with a neighborhood committee’s concept approval last month.

The redesign features two condo towers reaching 20 and 31 floors high on the block between 10th Street, Grant Street, Park and Portland avenues. The prior proposal incorporated the 1930s-era Enger building into the east tower; under the current plan it would be razed.

Conditions of the approval include a commitment to continue working together on design refinements and to mitigate the development’s impact on historic neighborhood resources. David Fields, community development coordinator for Elliot Park Neighborhood Inc., described the committee’s approval of about 26 in support (1 no vote, 1 abstention) in terms of what the project is offering the neighborhood.

“What we get back is more than a pile of bricks,” Fields said.

He said benefits include retail in each tower, a courtyard surrounding the Hinkle-Murphy mansion, towers set further back into the block, office space for the Volunteers of America and space for the reconstructed Learning Center. The developers said the Learning Center now has a charter to become a K-8 international baccalaureate elementary school, called the Elliot Park Community School.

All parking is now underground; the most recent proposal installed four of six parking levels below ground.

Board member Tom Borrup said he disliked the former 1010 Park design that hid retail space within the block, but said he now supports the “pedestrian-friendly” site plan.

“There is a certain amount of excitement about the neighborhood being a more lively, urban neighborhood, having more neighbors and having retail,” Borrup said.

The developers said the elimination of the Enger building helps address neighborhood concerns with the prior design.

“At particular issue was the ‘canyon-like’ effect of the previous massing on the through-block courtyard,” Omni Investment partner Michael Buelow said in a statement. “Upon close inspection, it became apparent that the Enger building was inadvertently causing many of the problems cited by the community relating to the East building. Though the loss of such a building was never taken lightly, the development team found the improvements to the overall project without the Enger to be striking.”

Councilmember Gary Schiff (9th Ward), chair of the Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee, said he has not seen the project’s new design, but he is concerned about the request to rezone the site to allow higher density. A Downtown East/North Loop Master Plan adopted three years ago did not include the project site in nine blocks of higher density zoning changes — the block lies just outside the master plan’s boundaries. Schiff said that does not necessarily mean the rezoning should be extended to 1010 Park, however.

Mill District

Omni Investment is also developing the Wave, a project on the riverfront that continues to be the subject of intense scrutiny. The proposed site is located along the riverfront between West River Parkway, 1st Street, 5th and 3rd avenues.

Omni rolled out a new design of the Wave last week at a meeting with members of an advisory group appointed by the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association.

The developers said they removed 50,000 square feet from the project, and said the revised proposal stands seven residential stories above one level of parking at its highest point. The prior proposal ranged from six to 11 stories. The developers highlighted plans to preserve some of the site’s mill ruins — the restaurant in the Fuji Ya building features remnants of the Bassett Saw Mill and a spa would be located in the foundation of the Columbia Mill ruins. The developers are still aiming to offer 38 condo units, but at smaller sizes.

The advisory group unanimously voted last week to recommend additional environmental review of the site.

“What should the use of the land be, given its historical nature?” said Rick Solum, an advisory board member. He said an environmental impact statement, which is required by the city in cases where an environmental assessment worksheet is not adequate, could provide a deeper alternate use analysis.

If the Wave proposal ultimately falls through, some Downtown workers and residents have started exploration of alternate uses for the site. One concept is to redevelop the former Fuji Ya building into a restaurant, with proceeds of the restaurant’s sale or lease going into a public-private trust that would help maintain and preserve the rest of the site’s mill ruins as public space.

The Wave’s environmental assessment worksheet is set to go before the Zoning and Planning Committee in mid-January, where the committee will decide whether further environmental review of the Wave is necessary.

North Loop

The county’s ballpark project staff say a portion of 3rd Avenue North will close in order for the ballpark site plan to work, and they are looking for ways to mitigate that impact on the North Loop.

Rick Johnson, the county’s ballpark coordinator, said one option would provide local access onto I-394, with a new off-ramp constructed in the vicinity of 11th and 12th streets. He said a second possibility would convert 2nd Avenue North into a two-way street.