Dinkytown hotel plans revived, under new developer

About two months after Doran Companies’ Dinkytown hotel proposal was put on hold by a city-ordered historical designation study, a new developer has plans to build a hotel on the same block that could keep the original buildings’ facades intact.

DJR Architecture has entered purchase agreements with various Dinkytown owners and is set to release its plans for the project next week, said Dean Dovolis, the firm’s owner.

Dovolis said he’s informally reviewed plans with neighborhood groups and local stakeholders, but he declined to comment on the project’s details until they were made public.

This would be the firm’s first project in the Dinkytown area.

Ward 3 Councilman Jacob Frey said the proposed hotel wouldn’t knock down existing buildings, with most construction set to be atop the surface parking lots behind Espresso Royale and the building that houses Mesa Pizza, Camdi Restaurant and Dinkytown Tattoo.

Minneapolis has had ongoing conversations about the intersection of development and preservation, Frey said — talks that occasionally get heated in Dinkytown. But Frey said he doesn’t believe those two concepts can’t coexist.

“This is a project that will do exactly that,” he said. “We’re going to retain all of the historical buildings while triggering growth … in the core of the block.”

Hung Russell, chair of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association’s Land Use Committee, said although he has yet to see any plans for the potential hotel, he has been briefed about development.

Russell said that DJR has a reputation for being sensitive to historical areas and that the hotel would keep the facades of the existing buildings intact.

Although details about usage of the building’s ground floor have yet to be decided, Russell said the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood plan calls for first-floor retail in every building along the Dinkytown central business district.

“It’s part of the character of Dinkytown,” he said.

Frey said he expects the hotel would include commercial space for a restaurant, coffee shop or other retail.

Still, some aspects of the project have raised concerns.

If a hotel goes up on top of two surface lots, that could exacerbate existing parking woes for Dinkytown business patrons and employees, Russell said.

He said he’s also apprehensive about the building’s height, which he was told could reach 18 stories — the same number of stories as nearby Chateau Cooperative. This estimate could not be independently verified.

But Frey said a taller building with “large, 40-foot setbacks” could actually work to protect Dinkytown’s street-level charm.

“We don’t want some six-story stick frame building that will block out the sun,” Frey said. “We want something taller, something elegant that will not be felt on the street.”

Irv Hershkovitz, who sold the building housing Publika Tea and Coffee Union and the University LifeCare Center to Doran Companies, said he doesn’t think the buildings in question are worth saving.

“There’s no historical value in either,” he said.

Wally Sakallah, owner of Wally’s Falafel and Hummus, Hideaway and a handful of Dinkytown properties, said as a businessman, he’d benefit from the customers a hotel would bring to the area. On the other hand, Sakallah said, a nearby project could render future construction on his own land more difficult, therefore reducing the value of his properties.

As student population density has surged, Hershkovitz said, campus visitors have struggled to find places to stay. A hotel would meet that demand, bring in new customers for local businesses and diversify the area’s population, he said.

“It’s the best thing we could ever possibly put in Dinkytown,” he said.

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