Hotel Debate Gets Weird

The hotel proposed for the southeast corner of Lake Street and Emerson Avenue has inspired dueling petitions (pro-hotel vs no-hotel). The petition battle has become TV-newsworthy. A shadowy group has even put out a pretend 30-second ad against it.

Site of proposed hotel. Lake Street in background.

Debate over the hotel took a turn for the weird at a December CARAG meeting where a woman distributed an anti-hotel flyer made to look like official information from the neighborhood organization. The same woman, a former CARAG board chair, was also seen taking zoomed-in pictures of individual meeting attendees. In January, a male resident threatened a CARAG board member with legal action if she supported the hotel. Last week, attendees at a meeting of the CARAG neighborhood association voted to oppose the hotel.

I wish I could give you a fuller report of debate in the Wedge. LHENA’s Zoning and Planning Committee, after not holding any monthly meetings since August of last year, held a meeting on January 13th without sending me an email. This is strange, because I’m a member of the committee, and up until now I have been on the committee’s email list (I’m also a LHENA board member).

While I wasn’t able to attend the committee meeting, we know at least a few CARAG residents got a special invitation, because they were using the fact of LHENA’s opposition to bolster their case against the hotel at the following week’s CARAG meeting. I was able to confirm at last week’s LHENA board meeting that there were CARAG residents at the committee meeting. I would imagine the content of their presentation reflects what’s in the anti-hotel petition, but we’ll have to wait for the meeting minutes. LHENA’s board voted (6-5) to go with the committee’s recommendation to oppose the hotel.

I should emphasize how unusual it is to have non-residents attend a LHENA meeting that was so un-publicized and irregular that I had no idea it was happening. I pay a crazy amount of attention to this stuff. LHENA didn’t make an ounce of effort to gauge the opinion of actual residents about this hotel before voting against it. It’s instructive about how insular the neighborhood association process can be; non-residents are invited because they oppose development, while an actual committee member is excluded because he’s supportive. And it’s one more reason you should take the results of this process with a grain of salt.

Old News: Rex Hardware at 2601 Lyndale

The vacant lot at 2601 Lyndale could soon get a grocery store and 75 apartments, but ten years ago it was a single story brick hardware store. Here’s how the store’s 2005 closing and the 2010 demolition was covered in the Wedge newspaper (all this old news was pirated without permission, as usual).

2007 plan that didn’t happen.
The long-vacant building was demolished in 2010.

2013 parking lot proposal for French Meadow.

A 2013 proposal to turn the vacant lot into a parking lot was supported by the Whittier Alliance. LHENA rejected it on the grounds that it would have required upzoning the parcel from C1 to C4 (to match the business using the parking lot), raising the unwelcome possibility of a large number of non-motorized residents

Channel 79 Instant Analysis: Historic White Castle

Slack chat transcripts are the latest digital-age innovation in lazy neighborhood journalism. Only on wedgelive dot com.

johneapolis [11:59 AM]
yang giving shout out to constance vork on a historic matter.
yang seems like he just got back from eating too many sliders at lunch. can’t clear his throat.
HOLD UP, blong tried to make this historic?

410 W Broadway

fishmanpet [12:12 PM] 
is that the kemps thing?
kemps wanted to tear down some buildings and pave paradise and put up a milk truck parking lot or some junk

johneapolis [12:12 PM] 
parking lot is a reasonable thing to oppose but… not historic.

fishmanpet [12:13 PM]
it’s one of those things where the goal is good but the city lacks the tools to do anything but make it historic
it seems like it should be pretty easy to say “don’t tear down buildings for parking lots” in the code

johneapolis [12:14 PM] 
i know… or don’t put a one story drive thru bank in this particular area
lol yang talking about the history of white castle:

“historically significant as an early example of a white castle restaurant opening during the first year of the franchise’s expansion from kansas to minneapolis and coinciding with the company’s greatest period of growth from 1927 to 1930. the building is associated with broad patterns of cultural development in minneapolis… it might be on its last leg, but it still has a leg”

fishmanpet [12:25 PM] 
wait blong said that?
that’s amazing

johneapolis [12:24] 
seeds of a blog post: “bad zoning regulations force us to make laughable arguments about historicalness”
let’s be proactive here
zoning reform now: please, won’t you save blong from embarrassing himself?

Developer Proposes Aldi + 76 Apartments at 2601 Lyndale

“Rex 26”

Master Properties is proposing to build 76 apartments and a grocery store at 2601 Lyndale, in the space currently occupied by a vacant lot and four houses. At last night’s meeting of the Whittier Alliance neighborhood association, developer Don Gerberding said he has an agreement in place for all six parcels, and he plans to complete the purchase by the end of February. When asked, he indicated the development proposal was not contingent on the involvement of the specific retailer currently attached to the project.

Unit types would include studios, one- and two-bedrooms, with sizes ranging from 500 to 1200 square feet. The building would have four stories, a grocery store at street level, fitness and party rooms, a rooftop terrace, and two levels of underground parking totaling around 160 stalls (60 spots allocated to Aldi, 26 for the French Meadow restaurant across the street, and the rest for residents). Renderings show the parking entrance at the south side of the building, off Lyndale Avenue. Gerberding said rents would go for around $2 per square foot.

Unit sizes.

Recent Streetview of the corner.

Gerberding somewhat hilariously tried (or pretended to try) to conceal the identity of the grocery store under a thin layer of white-out. Criticism of the project was largely focused on the fact that it would house a “corporate” chain, rather than an independent local store. Some pushed the idea that “the neighborhood” is united against any incursion by a national chain. Maybe this is in some document outlining the core principles of the Whittier Alliance, but that’s not the same thing as representing a substantial portion of the neighborhood.

The inflexible attitude came off as unbearably snobbish, especially when talking about Aldi, a grocery store famous for steep discounts. While Whittier is home to the Wedge Co-op, the majority of residents who shop elsewhere would be better served by some retail diversity. There are plenty of people in Whittier and surrounding neighborhoods for whom affordable food closer to home is a pretty welcome amenity.

Some attendees expressed a desire for more three-bedroom units, as a means of providing affordable options for families. To emphasize her preference for larger units, Whittier Alliance President Erica Christ said, “I don’t think anyone in Whittier has a hard time finding a one-bedroom.” The 20-something renter seated next to her quietly let her know that, actually he’d had just that problem. Christ also mentioned her desire to move the four houses rather than demolish them, while Gerberding was skeptical about the houses being worthy of salvage.

The building would be named “Rex 26” in a tribute to the hardware store that stood on the corner for nearly 100 years. Gerberding said he plans to come back to the neighborhood in February with a more “formal” proposal.

.@FlisrandJK leg lengths are out of scale, out of character.

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) January 12, 2016

A Lyndale Story, in Four YouTubes

There’s something happening in the Lyndale neighborhood. Many people think of Lyndale as the Rhode Island of our tri-neighborhood area. And these people are right, so it’s not worth trying to understand or explain the underlying issues (something about 17 dwelling units and a parking crisis). So let’s go straight to the videotape.

Uptown’s Newest Drive-Thru Bank Secures More Parking

Wells Fargo had their appeal granted at the Zoning & Planning Committee yesterday. The vote was unanimous to allow the new Lake & Humboldt Wells Fargo to exceed the parking maximum by eight spaces–for a total of 25. As a condition of the parking variance, the bank will need to commit to sharing their lot with the neighborhood or a local business during non-banking hours.

The parking maximum is lower than it otherwise would be, because the site is located in the Lake and Hennepin Pedestrian Oriented Overlay District. This calls for a more pedestrian friendly environment, which includes smaller parking lots. A drive-thru, similarly prohibited by the district, was allowed by the Planning Commission last month.

One neighbor, concerned about street parking, was there to testify that biking and busing for a bank employee or customer is “unrealistic.” She called out a collection of working-class heroes by name and described how they drive 2-3 miles to work from Linden Hills (camera pans to the brave faces of Adrian, Marsha, and Georgianne, presumably parked next to Michelle Obama). Not very shrewd of these folks to eschew a 13-minute bus ride in favor of enduring the daily Uptown a-park-olypse. (I enjoyed her testimony. Watch the video below.)

I can’t understand the argument that a bank will bring parking disaster to the neighborhood. Banks are open during banking hours. Banking hours coincide with the time of day that many residents, even non-bankers, will have driven their cars off to work and parked them in someone else’s neighborhood. Council Member Lisa Goodman seemed to be thinking along those lines when she asked the Wells Fargo representative what their plans were for the empty lot during off hours. Answer: keep it empty.

@MattyLangMSP @nickmagrino Saw a pedestrian taking out money from the drive-through ATM the other day. Would’ve made a great photo.

— Anders (@imboande) January 4, 2016

Council President Barb Johnson made the social engineering argument, saying we shouldn’t use the parking maximum to “force people to use a particular form of transportation.” I should remind you that Barb had no problem forcing people build more parking when she weakened reforms to parking minimum regulations last year. And then there was her usual anecdote about how hard it is to find parking on her Uptown shopping trips. You may remember last year when Barb griped about that one time she had to walk a block and a half in Ward 10.

Despite approving the extra parking, the committee was largely in agreement that this is a pretty terrible project for this location. “It needs density, it needs more than one story, and there’s way too much surface parking,” said Andrew Johnson. Lisa Bender described the sentiment she hears from the neighborhood association as a question of “how do we get this project to totally change into a different form that’s not a single story building surrounded by surface parking?” It’s too late for that. Uptown is stuck with this over-parked, single-story, drive-thru bank for decades.

They were gonna underpark the drive-thru bank and Barb(!) was like…

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) January 8, 2016

Major Remodeling Underway at Two Area Apt Buildings

1207 W. 25th St
Workers are currently gutting a 12-unit apartment building at 1207 West 25th Street, in preparation for a nearly $500,000 remodel. The building was purchased for just over $1 million by a Chicago company, Maven Real Estate Partners. The same company has permits to begin a similar remodel of the 22-unit building located at 1200 West Franklin, which they purchased for $1.7 million. Both buildings were purchased on July 21st, 2015. 
I don’t know what the “Loon Express” sign is all about. I’m hoping for seven lanes of drive-thru falafels in the style of Wells Fargo. But more significantly, I think this proves a theory I’ve long had: if a fancy man wants to be your neighbor, he doesn’t always have to build new.
Update 1/16/2016: Same thing is happening to the Alden Apartments downtown.