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November 24, 2003 // UPDATED 11:07 am - April 30, 2007
By: Skyway News editorial staff
Skyway News editorial staff

Things going on in Downtown Minneapolis\' area Neighborhood\'s.

Bridge Place tower advances Developers behind the proposed 39-story Bridge Place condo tower, slated to go up near Downtown's central riverfront, have cleared another hurdle.

Predicting that the building will become another "city landmark," the city's Zoning and Planning Committee voted earlier this month to reject an appeal by a resident opposing the project.

St. Louis Park-based Apex Asset Management and Minnetonka-based Opus Corp. will develop the 283-unit condo tower planned for 220 S. 2nd St. The companies also worked together on Downtown's 27-story Grant Park project in Elliot Park.

George Carlson, who lives in the East Bank neighborhood's 27-story LaRive apartment tower, 110 Bank Street SE, appealed the Planning Commission's Aug. 18 approval on grounds that the project is too tall for the area.

At a Nov. 13 public hearing, Carlson argued that the project fails to live up to standards set in city development plans. Under his interpretation, the plans call for buildings to tier downward toward the river.

"Bridge Place dwarfs the nearby ... historic buildings," he said.

Carlson showed computer-generated renderings simulating how the tower would fit into the skyline. He argued Bridge Place would "wall off" the riverfront.

After the hearing, Carlson he said he'd like to see the developer cut the tower's height down to that of its neighbor to the west -- the 16-story Rivergate apartments. Although some say shorter, wider buildings block more views, Carlson disputes that idea and would prefer a squatter building, rather than a taller, more slender tower.

The renderings Carlson presented didn't do much to support his case. In fact, Councilmember Gary Schiff (9th Ward), chair of the Zoning and Planning Committee, said the renderings further convinced him of Bridge Place's merit.

"This is exactly what the city is looking for," Schiff said, comparing it to the city's first skyscraper, the Foshay Tower, in size and scale. "This will be a new landmark for the city of Minneapolis."

The full Council was scheduled to consider the Committee's decision Nov. 21, after this issue of Skyway News went to press. That's the final step for city approval. -- Sarah McKenzie

Group honors, ranks Nicollet blocks for beauty Nicollet Mall between 12th and 13th streets, home to the Westminster Presbyterian Church among others, has been selected as the mall's prettiest block by a group of volunteer judges working on behalf of property owners.

The judges -- people living or working along Nicollet Mall -- evaluated the mall's 12 blocks, looking at overall maintenance and landscaping. The judges assigned the blocks scores once a month from June to September.

Property owners on the 12th-to-13th street stretch earned high marks for coordinating beautification efforts. Landscaping in front of the Westminster, particularly the church's flowers, garnered praise.

Besides the stately Westminster, Dahl Pharmacy, the Ridgedale State Bank, the 1225 LaSalle Building, the city's Public Works Department and the commercial real estate services company, Colliers Towle Turley Martin Tucker, occupy the block.

The block between 8th and 9th streets, occupied by the US Bancorp Tower, the Medical Arts Building and Walgreens Drug Store, among others, came in second place.

The third place finisher was the block between 11th and 12th street -- home to Peavey Plaza, Brit's Pub, Caribou Coffee and the YWCA, among others.

A north-end mall block, between 3rd and 4th streets, earned the lowest score. Construction crews working on the new Central Library project dominate that block.

A committee of the Nicollet Mall Advisory Board, which reports to the City Council, organized the contest in wake of a shift in maintenance responsibilities. This year, property owners are responsible for housekeeping and snow removal on sidewalks along the mall -- previously city duties. Now, Public Works crews work on street maintenance and other heavier-duty repairs -- projects that have long been deferred, such as replacing cracked granite pavers on the mall's sidewalk.

Nicollet Mall is part of a special assessment district, meaning property owners pay additional taxes to fund additional city services.

Brian Fesler, director of special affairs for the Church of Scientology, 1011 Nicollet Mall, led efforts to organize the contest. He said it's too early to gauge how property owners are faring with their new maintenance duties, but he hopes the contest brings more attention to mall beautification efforts.

So what's in it for the winners? For now, an ego boost and a special plaque awarded at a Nov. 13 ceremony.

"The key to winning was beautiful landscaping on both sides of the street," Fesler said. "Also key was early organizing. The block that won was one of the most organized blocks on the mall."

As for the ugly ducklings along the mall, some of the low marks came for things out of the property owners' hands.

"The low-scoring blocks were hurt by construction sites that are naturally not as aesthetic as landscaped sites," Fesler said.

Here's how the other blocks finished:

  • Fourth place:
  • between 7th and 8th streets -- the Radisson Plaza Hotel, Marshall Field's and the IDS Tower, among others;
  • Fifth place:
  • between 6th and 7th streets -- City Center and the Gaviidae Common shopping center;
  • Sixth place:
  • between 9th and 10th streets -- the Target Store, the Local, Starbucks and Crate & Barrel;
  • Seventh place:
  • between 13th and Grant streets -- the Hyatt Regency and Millennium hotels;
  • Eighth place:
  • between 10th and 11th streets -- the Target headquarters, WCCO television studios, and Key's Caf, among others;
  • Ninth place:
  • between 5th and 6th streets -- Chipotle, Neiman Marcus, among others;
  • 10th place:
  • between Washington Avenue and 3rd Street -- the Cancer Survivors Park;
  • 11th place:
  • between 4th and 5th streets -- Xcel Energy and Walgreens Drug Store; and
  • 12th place:
  • between 3rd and 4th streets -- dominated by the new Central Library project under construction. -- Sarah McKenzie

    Elliot Park seeks board members Elliot Park's neighborhood organization is seeking applications to fill to two vacancies on its board of directors.

    People who work, live or own property in

    the neighborhood, located in Downtown's southeastern corner, are eligible to run for a seat. There are 20 members on Elliot Park Neighborhood, Inc.'s (EPNI) board.

    EPNI Executive Director Tom Reid said the board's executive committee will nominate applicants for the board. The nominee must garner a minimum of 11 votes -- a board majority -- to get elected.

    The terms are two years; one term expires in May 2004, the other in May 2005.

    The neighborhood group has been tackling a range of issues lately. EPNI has reviewed plans for a new, 25-story condo project on Portland Avenue between 9th and 10th streets. Tandem, a Chicago-based developer, has consulted the group on design plans.

    EPNI has also been working on an afterschool program for low-income, elementary school students in the neighborhood. The organization has secured funding from many corporate foundations for the project.

    For those interested in filling a vacancy, contact the EPNI office at 335-5846. -- Sarah McKenzie

    Wood road will soon open for driving The Canal Plank Road -- a short stretch of West River Road downstream from Portland Avenue -- should open by early- to mid-December, said Rachel Ramadhyani, project manager for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

    The project passes behind the newly opened Mill City Museum, 704 S. 2nd St. The roadwork is an effort to recreate the industrial landscape of the former West Side Milling District.

    The $1.6 million project began in April. It includes lighting, benches, interpretive signs, bike racks and landscaping.

    In the last century, mills would have lined both sides of the road that is now West River Parkway, hemming in passersby. They would have walked down a 60-foot-wide wood plank road covering the main water canal that powered the mills to either side, Park Board materials said.

    Workers tore out a 600-foot stretch of the asphalt parkway and replaced it with heavy-duty, low-maintenance white oak planks, matching the historic width. Concrete subpavement supports the planks.

    Rail "bumpers" -- railroad-type rails set on spacers -- will act as a curb, separating vehicles from pedestrians and bikes on the road.

    Ramadhyani said warm weather helped the project stay on time. She cautioned motorists driving on the new road, particularly with winter approaching.

    "I would anticipate it will be a little slipperier in snowy conditions than an ordinary surface," she said. "People should be perfectly safe if they drive at the speed limit, which is 25 mph." -- Scott Russell

    Neighborhood notes

    Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA) Next: Land Use meeting, Dec. 2. Meetings: Land Use meetings, 1st Tuesday of each month; Board meetings 2nd Tuesday of each month, 6:30 p.m., LaSalle Plaza, 800 LaSalle Ave., Suite #131. Contact: 659-1279, Borders: Mississippi River, Hennepin Ave., Washington Ave., 3rd Ave., 12th St., 5th Ave., 5th St., I-35W.

    North Loop Neighborhood Association Next: Board meeting, Wednesday, Nov. 26. Meetings: Last Wednesday of the month, 7 p.m., Heritage Landing, 415 N. 1st St.Contact: Jim Grabek, 677-1090, Borders: Lyndale Ave., Mississippi River, I-94, Hennepin Ave., Washington Ave., 3rd. Ave.

    Citizens for a Loring Park Community Next: Land Use Committee, Monday, Nov. 24. Meetings: Board meets 2nd Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. 430 Oak Grove St., #207. Nicollet Task Force, 2nd Wednesday, Hibaq Coffee Shop. Livability Committee, 3rd Wednesday, 6:30 p.m., Dunn Bros on 15th St.; Land Use Committee, 6:30 p.m., 4th Monday, 430 Oak Grove St. Contact: Jana Metge, 874-9002; Borders: S. 12th St., I-35W, I-94, Lyndale Ave. and I-394.

    Elliot Park Neighborhood, Inc. (EPNI) 10/10 board meeting Council update: Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) briefed board members on City Council activity. Next year, the Council plans to take a look at the stadium proposal for the Rapid Park site, west of the Target Center, she said. She also told the board that the city will soon be mailing out snow emergency cards explaining parking rules. Development: The board was also briefed on plans for a new condo project on Portland Avenue between 9th and 10th streets. Chicago-based developer Tandem is pitching a 25-story tower with units averaging $200,000. The developer has consulted residents on design plans. Next: Neighborhood Action Committee, Monday, Nov. 24. Meetings: Board 2nd Monday of the month, 7 p.m., 1000 E. 14th St.; Economic Development Strategies, 3rd Wednesday, Building Land Use and Housing, 3rd Thursday; Neighborhood Action Committee, 4th Monday. (EPNI's committee meetings are open to all adults who live, work or own property in the neighborhood. Local Churches may appoint up to 3 people to represent them.) Contact: 335-5846 Borders: I-94, Hwy. 55, 5th Ave., S. 5th St.

    Nicollet Island/East Bank Neighborhood Association Next: Jan. 20. Meetings: 3rd Tuesday of the odd-numbered months, 7 p.m., Pracna on Main, 117 SE Main St. Contact: Borders: Nicollet Island, Mississippi River, Central Ave. SE, railroad tracks north of and parallel to 1st Ave.