An appeal by four neighborhood associations plus individuals against a proposed apartment/retail project by CPM Development at the northeast corner of Lake Street and Knox Avenue was heard by the Minneapolis City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee on August 6. The Committee recommended to the full City Council that the appeal be denied.
CPM Development sought approval for a building with a maximum height of 56 feet and 65 dwelling units. The Zoning and Planning Committee upheld the Minneapolis City Planning Commission’s granting of more than a dozen variances or other approvals. At the Committee hearing, plans were announced to widen the sidewalk on Lake Street to 18 feet. This is in accordance with the Uptown Small Area Plan’s recommendation of wide promenades along commercial corridors to enhance lively uses of streets.
The Council denied the appeal at its August 14 meeting. Before the Council approved the project, Council Member Gary Schiff moved, and the City Council unanimously voted to accept, a previously over-ridden staff recommendation and reduce density for the development project at Lake Street and Knox Avenue from 65 units to 55.
Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2010.
The neighborhood groups that filed the appeal were East Isles, East Calhoun, CARAG and Lowry Hill East objecting primarily to height, density and setbacks. They claim the plan violates the Uptown Small Area Plan (USAP) that calls for a step-down in maximum building height from 84 feet at Hennepin and Lake to 35 feet at the lake. It also violates the City’s and the State of Minnesota’s Shoreland Overlay Districts (SOD) that limit buildings to 35 feet or 2.5 stories within 1,000 feet of the lake unless an exception is granted..
The Minneapolis City Planning Commission and City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee interpreted USAP provisions as having the flexibility to permit the height, density and other features as approved. Supporters of the project argued that it is smaller than other projects that were built before the area’s guidelines were developed.
The Uptown Small Area Plan was initiated in response to community objections about development projects in the past few years, including the nearby 84 foot high Edgewater condominiums. Adopted in 2008 as part of Minneapolis’ official plan, USAP’s intent is to provide for rational, predictable, orderly growth and development in the Uptown area. The plan was created over an almost two year period with hundreds of hours of public participation by citizens, businesses, City officials and staff.
The plan calls for concentrating height and density in the core of Uptown and decreasing building heights toward the lake to protect this important natural resource and public space. Neighborhood groups filing the appeal expressed deep concern that if the City Council approved this project with three conditional use permits and six variances the integrity and value of the USAP will be seriously undermined and inhibit the ability to shape growth in the Uptown community according to the principles and policies of a comprehensive planning process.
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