June 26, 2012 by Sarah M
By Nick Halter
A proposal to add a six-level apartment building to the Calhoun Greenway complex on the west side of Lake Calhoun gained approval from the Minneapolis Planning Commission on June 25, but not before the development team took barbs from the Commission over landscaping and what some call an unattractive design.
That Calhoun Greenway complex is tucked into a triangle of land in between the Midtown Greenway, the Minikahda Golf Course and Whole Foods. The current complex is four stories tall with 151 units. The proposed addition, from developer Bigos, would add a six-floor building along the Midtown Greenway that would house another 185 units.
The project has earned praise because it’s just feet from the Midtown Greenway and Cedar Lake Trail bike paths and will be just a block from a proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit stop.
But it also drew scorn from Planning commissioners who said they were unimpressed by its plain design and unappealing building materials.
Commissioner Richard Mammen called it the “one of the least attractive buildings” he’s seen since joining the panel. The Commission added two conditions to the project’s approval. Commissioners asked that the developer build a connection to the Greenway in its front yard as well as work with city staff to make the building more attractive.
The project’s architect, Tod Elkins of UrbanWorks Architecture, said he was confident that Bigos and the city could work out those remaining issues in time for a summer groundbreaking that would have the building open in 12 to 14 months.
“I don’t believe it’s ugly. My client doesn’t believe it’s ugly,” Elkins said. “Everyone has their opinion on aesthetics and I guess we have to respect other peoples’ decisions, but I would say in five years and 10 years, when this thing is built and functioning and people are living there, I think it will be judged as a successful project.”
Parking and traffic is a big issue in the West Calhoun neighborhood. While neighbors wanted more parking spaces — a 1:1 ratio of bedrooms to parking stalls — the Planning Commission disagreed and asked for less. Commissioners said that with a bike path out front, a future light rail stop a block away and a bus route, residents shouldn’t need to own cars.
Elkins said Bigos plans to have a couple hour cars that residents can use.
“The hope is that it’s such a hassle and a cost to own a car that because you can get a car when you need it for an hour or two, use the light rail system, access to the Midtown Greenway and the other mass transit, you won’t need one,” Elkins said.
Soren Jensen, Executive Director of the Midtown Greenway Coalition, praised the project for adding density to the bike path and for building it in a “V” shape that reduces the shadow it casts on the trail.
But he also noted that the development is on the south side of the Greenway, and in October, November and December it will cast shadow on the pavement, and subsequently cause icing.
Two thirds of the units will be one-bedroom, another 20 percent will be two-bedroom and the remaining roughly 15 percent of units will be studios, Elkins said. He said rents in the new building will be slightly cheaper than those at some of new developments along the Greenway, such as Blue in Lyn-Lake.
Readers may recognize the name Bigos, as it’s the company that recently proposed developing a 13-level building on a different Greenway site, next door the Calhoun Beach Club and across the street from Lake Calhoun. That project drew lots of criticism from neighbors and the company has not submitted an application to the city.