Florence Court development moves ahead

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In an apparent compromise between developer Clark Gassen and the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association (MHNA), the historic Florence Court apartments could be renovated as part of the project to build a new six-story, 84-unit apartment building at the site, where a BP gas station now stands at the corner of University Avenue on the north end of the 10th Avenue bridge.

The city’s Planning Commission approved a handful of applications on Dec. 8., green-lighting the project, pending approval by the City Council.

The MHNA wanted the historic restoration of the long, L-shaped row of apartments — built in 1886 and designated historic by the city — included as part of the proposed new construction on the site. Gassen has agreed to commit revenue generated by the new apartments to renovate the 37 apartments in the historic building that parallels 10th Avenue and SE Second Street.

“…With a great new building going up, we’ll be able to start with the old building,” Gassen told the Star Tribune in a late-December article. “We will work with the neighbors, that’s our intent.”

In that same article, MHNA Treasurer Paul White said his organization worked closely with the developer — a model the MHNA hopes can be applied to all proposed developments.

In addition to the historic restoration agreement, other significant changes have occurred in the plan since it was first submitted last summer. According to information from architect BKV Group, Gassen’s CAG Development has an option to buy the northwest corner of the block, currently occupied by the BP gas station. The inclusion of the corner property “gives the project an opportunity to be a true ‘gateway’ to the University,” states the narrative provided by BKV.

The current plan would also “protect and restore” four existing residential homes and the central courtyard space that fronts the historic rowhouses. One existing house on the lot will be demolished, as will the gas station, according to a city staff report. Most of the existing mature trees will be maintained, and the existing driveway that runs from University Avenue through the parcel to 11th Avenue Southeast will be resurfaced and maintained.

There will be a total of 313 bedrooms in 121 units. The new 84-unit building will have five one-bedroom units, 33 two-bedrooms, 25 three-bedrooms and 21 four-bedrooms. The restored Florence Court building will include 16 one-bedrooms, four two-bedrooms, nine three-bedrooms and four four-bedrooms. The four existing single-family homes will each have four bedrooms.

The new construction will consist of three distinct-but-attached buildings above two levels of below-ground parking, which will include one parking space and one bike space for each of the total 121 units. There will be no surface parking. (The University of Minnesota owns the northeast corner of the block and uses it for parking, however.)

The new construction will be positioned to the north of the site — facing University Avenue — to “allow ample space between the new apartment building and the existing homes, increase the outdoor courtyard area, and engage University Avenue with active uses,” according to information from BKV Group.

The building decreases to four stories on the south side near the lower, existing structures. Like those existing buildings, the new construction will have walk-up entrances at grade level, slightly elevated from the street.

Gretchen Camp, an architect with BKV, called the plan to redevelop the historic rowhouses “a three-year plan” that would start after the new construction, but that some work would be done before some of the new apartments are built.

According to the Star Tribune article, Gassen hopes to start the project early next year if he can get a construction loan.

At the Dec. 8 meeting, the Planning Commission also denied applications by Jason Klohs, on behalf of Patrick Burns, for a proposed six-unit residential building at 633 and 635 SE Ontario St.