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Multi-family development still has a long road ahead

Posted on 27 May 2015 by calvin

Developer modifies plans for Longfellow project in response to March neighborhood meeting


Reporting and photo by JAN WILLMS

Council person Andrew Johnson and developer Andy BareNeighbors raised concerns and discussed a proposed new multi-family development, at 3403 38th Ave. S., at a public information meeting May 14 at the Longfellow Recreation Center.

Developer Andy Bare of Key Funding LLC initially planned that the 24,000 square foot building would be 40 feet tall and house 4,000 feet of office and business space on the bottom, with apartments above.

But since he first made his presentation to the community in March, he has made some changes.

“Some valid points were made when I first presented this, one being storm water issues,” he said. “I took a long look at this, and I talked about it with investors and a gardening buddy. Storm water retention made a lot of sense to me.”

“I switched to a flat roof with a green roof, maybe a rooftop garden, that will alleviate some of the storm water issues.”

Bare said the other big sticking point about the development had been the height of the building. “I’m allowed to build up to 40 feet, but I shrunk it to 30 feet,” he noted.

He has decided to keep the building residential with a mix of apartments. “If this doesn’t work financially, we will build two single family homes there,” he noted. “They would be 2,000 square foot houses. It’s a 10,000 square foot lot.”

He said the property falls in a C-1 building classification, and a developer would be allowed to build a lot of different products there.

Bare indicated that any commercial use of the property is not completely off the table. “If four people came to me and said they wanted 1,000 feet of retail space for the next 10 years, and gave me a check, I’d figure out a way to build that,” he said. He added that when he took away the retail space, the building became shorter.

“To go for a variance for a taller building would be a pretty uphill battle,” he claimed. “It didn’t meet with a lot of support.”

Several people raised concerns about setbacks, the distance a building or structure is set back from a street or road.

“In a C-1 zoning district, you are allowed to use zero setbacks on the front and side, whatever the market dictates,” Bare explained. He also said the market would dictate who the customers of the development are.

“In my experience we typically get young urban professionals who want to live in the city,” Bare said. “The younger generation is used to having more bedrooms and bathrooms than what we grew up with, and this will accommodate probably a younger crowd.”

Regarding setbacks, Bare said he was talking with one of the zoning administrators, and he was encouraged to take it out to the corner because that’s what the city’s comprehensive plan suggests. “In C-1 zoning areas, they prefer a specific looking building,” he added.

“If you guys support a variance for a third story, I’ll support a setback,” Bare offered.

Andrew Johnson, council member for Ward 12, said the evening’s meeting was his first opportunity to see the plans for the development. ‘

“I’m here to listen, to work with Andy, and to advocate on behalf of the neighborhood,” he told the audience. “It’s important that developments fit in with the neighborhood and complement the community. When it comes to setbacks, the Planning Commission will have input on this and will work towards getting a better fit for the community.”

Bare emphasized that the development plans he has set out are preliminary. “We have to do a code review, go through all that, listen to your opinions and figure out which way to go,” he said. “I’m going to challenge my guys, tell them this is what I saw and this is what I heard, and what should we do? Then we’ll make a decision and take it to the city and start that process.”

Responding to a question about rental prices, Bare said he had done a quick search and found that the two bedrooms plus den was most popular, renting in a range of $1,000 to $1,300.

“Singles units are a concept as well, and condo units are acceptable in this housing.”

He said that although the apartments could hold up to 64 people, he is looking more at 16 to 32.

“No matter what, there will be some increased traffic,” he said. “It’s an empty lot right now.”
At one time, the site was home to a gas station, which burned down. “Several people have looked at the property, and testing was done in 2008 for soil contamination. It showed 110 parts per million of organic vapors, and that’s pretty small. It showed ground water at about 14 feet with the soil samples.”

Bare said that as the development moves forward, he plans to do the DRAC and ground fills enrollment program.

DRAC stands for the Development Review Advisory Committee, a citizen advisory body, representing those with interests in the outcome of policies, budgets, regulations, and procedures that affect development review processes, neighborhood livability and the environment.

Bare pointed out that “the site has already been closed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Association, and we will open it up and get rid of all the dirt that was there. We will do some other building type of remediation items, put thick poly down underneath, radon rock, and a sealed embankment. We have a pretty thorough idea of what we’ll do,” he said.

One resident questioned where all the snow would go, and Bare assured him that the snow will get figured out.

Another resident supported affordable housing and wanted the Longfellow community to be welcoming to everyone. Bare said that he had spent nine months ten years ago trying to create affordable housing in Minneapolis. He had stacks of thick papers. “I’m not going through nine months of paperwork without getting results again,” he said. “I’m a free-market guy.”

Johnson said that affordable housing is hugely important to the city, and the City Council has put a record amount of money into an affordable housing trust fund. “On top of that, with properties owned by the city, we do strongly show a preference for affordable housing whenever we put out RFP proposals for developers,” he said.

Johnson added that when it comes to individual property that is private, the city cannot require affordable housing right now.

One resident expressed that his main wish was that the developer be a good community partner.

“I don’t discount anybody’s opinion; these are all legitimate questions to me,” Bare replied.

“The whole process of being a landlord, I get it. I live next door to a building development, and I get some of the problems from a practical standpoint. Respect is what I try to present.”

“I’m not going to please everybody out there; it’s impossible,” he said. “But I’ll try to work with everybody as respectfully as I can.”