BY DEBORAH SMITH
Bergan’s SuperValu on Cedar Avenue across from the Hiawatha Golf Course will soon be just a memory for people in the Ericsson, Northrop and Hale neighborhoods.
Developers are moving ahead to replace it with a 5-story, 72-foot-tall, 125-unit apartment building occupying the block bounded by Cedar and Longfellow Avenues, 47th Street and Minnehaha Parkway. A 23,500-square foot retail/commercial space would occupy most of the first floor. Project drawings show a grocery store in that space, but the developer, Trammell Crow, has not disclosed specific plans.
The redevelopment area does not include Washburn-McReavey funeral home, Caribou Coffee, Grand Ole Creamery or Carbone’s/Cork and Dork.
While people in the neighborhoods surrounding Bergan’s are sad to see it go, most are not against redeveloping the block, they are just concerned with what has been proposed.
There are a number of reasons this plan needs closer scrutiny and significant modification.
Part of the site is located within the FP Floodplain Overlay District, which requires that the lowest floor be elevated 1 foot and the finished fill elevation must be no lower than 1 foot below the regulatory flood protection elevation, and the fill must extend the same elevation at least 15 feet beyond the outside limits of the structure. The developers are asking for a Conditional Use Permit to reduce the minimum extension of fill from 15 ft. to 0 ft. beyond the limits of the structure. This is in an area already prone to flooding, and no environmental study has been done.
This planned building is needlessly high. The city’s Shoreland Overlay ordinance, adopted in May 1988, states that buildings should not be higher than the tree line, and it gives 2.5 stories or 35 feet as the recommended height limit. Even though it appears the City Council has usually ignored the Shoreland Overlay rules, the variance requested for this project is stunning: the developer wants to DOUBLE the allowable limits, to 64 feet for the roof deck and 72 feet to the top of the stair and elevator towers.
They are also asking for a variance for the building taking up more of the site than is currently allowed: to increase the maximum (usable) floor area ratio (F.A.R.) from 2.38 to 2.5.
The city’s new comprehensive plan, Minneapolis 2040, is currently under review by the Metropolitan Council. The Planning Department’s staff report on this project states that the proposed future land use classification is “corridor mixed use,” which intends the property to serve a larger market area and encourages mixed-use, multi-story development.
“The proposed built form for this site is Corridor 4, which directs new and remodeled buildings to reflect a variety of building types on both small and moderate-sized lots,” the staff report states. “Building heights should be 1 to 4 stories. Requests to exceed 4 stories will be evaluated on the basis of whether or not a taller building is a reasonable means to further achieving Comprehensive Plan goals.”
So, this project has also blown past the city’s new higher-density rules, which aren’t even official yet.
Where’s the affordable housing?
As people of modest incomes are painfully aware, there is an affordable housing crisis not just in Minneapolis but across the metro area and nation. The City Council has pressed hard for new developments to include at least 10% of the units as affordable at 60% of Area Median Income. None of the proposed apartments in this project would fall into the affordable category. Supposedly, the reason for increasing the density of Minneapolis is to make housing more affordable. So, how do market-rate apartments crammed into this block help to solve that problem?
In addition, there are three businesses on that block which will be negatively affected by a building of this size. There will be almost no parking for the Washburn-McReavy funeral home facing the Parkway, and minimal spots for both Carbone’s restaurant and the Cork and Dork liquor store.
It is also apparent that the “modern” style of the proposed building is nothing like anything near it. Even the SuperAmerica (now Speedway) station tried to make its remodeled building fit into the neighborhood. The Shoreland Overlay District rules also require that the city consider the scale and character of surrounding uses.
The Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association is hosting a public meeting about this proposal on Wednesday, May 8, at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 1720 E. Minnehaha Pkwy., at 6:30 p.m. Residents of the Northrop and Hale neighborhoods and all others are encouraged to attend to find out more and give community feedback.