Developers and architects of the proposed condo, rental and retail Eitel Hospital project near Loring Park, brought a surprise to the June 8 meeting of a neighborhood task force: a 48-story tower - less than a month after the developers proposed the building be 35 stories.
There was some laughter - and a few barbs at developers - among a group that has had what one member called "eight months of contentious meetings."
Those months saw the Eitel project change substantially, including moving the tower one block off the park. Until the June meeting, the design had been for 30 floors of condos atop five levels of parking.
Task Force Chair Katie Hatt said that task force members left the previous month's meeting feeling positive about the 35-story project.
Paula Vesely agreed. "After all the pushing and shoving and kicking and screaming, everyone came away saying 'that's a hell of a building.'"
Now, after what Hatt called "dramatic changes" - the addition of 13 more floors - she wondered "what the point has been in us being here."
"This is a bait and switch," Vesely said. "We are not in favor of a 48-story tower like a rude middle finger."
Said David Carlins, vice president of Chicago-based Magellan Group "This is the starting point of a designed tower."
Carlins listened patiently to the comments.
"If you say no to a 48-story tower, we'll come back with something else," Carlins said, taking responsibility for any miscommunication.
Carlins said that developers and architects "were not thinking about the height" during their recent design work. They intended the tower be narrower and more elegant than a shorter building would permit. He noted that 80 percent of the taller tower's units have a park or city view.
The design "kept evolving," Carlins said until developers "realized it was 48 stories."
Task force members were not entirely opposed to the design - one even said he liked it, 48 stories and all - but most thought it was too tall for the neighborhood.
Task force member Paul Hinderager said that a building that tall "needs to be a signature building for the whole city. I don't see that it in this building. It's far too simple."
Architect Jack Boarman noted that the taller tower has the same square footage as the 35-story proposal, and with 487 units, still has 120 fewer than the 607 permitted under B4S-3 zoning. That's a sticky point right now, because the tower is currently planned on the half of the block zoned OR3, with a seven-story limit.
Developers are banking on a rezoning of the block, which Hatt has said in the past the task force might support. City staff, the Minneapolis Planning Commission and the City Council all still must weigh in.