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New building next to 38th St. lightrail station clearing construction hurdles

Posted on 26 September 2017 by calvin

38th Station DesignThe entire station revitalization project proposed by the Lander Group includes three buildings. One sits next to the lightrail line and offers retail and office space. The largest wraps around the Cardinal restaurant and has housing and retail. A third sits south of 38th at its intersection with 29th and includes affordable housing and retail space. (Illustration submitted)

Plan to revitalize 38th St. station includes three new buildings, two plazas, new street, stoplight, and bike parking

While the proposal for multi-story buildings at the 38th St. and Hiawatha fits within the city’s plans for development along the lightrail line, neighbors argue that it doesn’t fit within their Minneapolis neighborhood.

During a public hearing on Sept. 18, Jennifer Halter, a resident along 29th Ave., pointed out that most of the buildings in the neighborhood are one-and-a-half story bungalows or two-story homes.

She specifically opposes the plan by the developer, Lander Group, to put a four-story building on the southeast corner of 38th St. and 29th Ave.

“A four-story building has no business on the south block of 38th St. if the city and developer intend to retain the character of the neighborhood,” wrote Halter in a letter opposing the proposal.

Department of Community Planning and Economic DevelopmentPhoto left: A wedge-shaped building next to the lightrail line will house offices and a restaurant. Next to it will be a privately-owned, public plaza with seating and a water feature. (Illustration submitted)

The plan shows a building that is two stories along 38th and steps back to four stories on the south side, which means that the 100-year-old, 1.5-story farmhouse on the south will be right next to a four-story wall without a setback, Halter said.

Halter was joined by three other neighbors who are also concerned about the size of the building proposed for the south side of 38th, parking issues along residential streets, and the traffic congestion that will be generated by the new development.

“People want their cars. They don’t want to go grocery shopping in January on the bus,” stated Caroline Smart.

Yvette Roberts, who lives north of 38th along 29th Ave., is also concerned about traffic, specifically the buses that will be traveling down her street, and she’s a regular bus rider who doesn’t own a car. She also expressed concern about where cars were going to park. “Everyone wants to park by the lightrail station. They want a park and ride,” she stated.

Station to be redone
The Lander Group is planning to revitalize the 38th St. lightrail station “through privately-led, publicly-visioned development,” according to city documents. By making the site larger through the purchase of the six homes on the west side of the property along 29th, the Lander Group will enlarge the bus turnaround and drop-off, create a new city street, add two new station plazas with public art and water features, and construct three new buildings. The buildings will house a mixture of office, retail, and housing.

A great street
While neighbors spoke about the overall development during the Sept. 18 public hearing, Planning Commissioners were looking at just a portion of the project.

“We’re excited to be here,” said Michael Lander of Lander Group. “One could argue this is the culmination of a vision that started 27 years ago.” The vision for lightrail along this corridor included the redevelopment of the area with high-density housing along the line and additional amenities.

“There’s been a lot of people talking about what they want to happen, and we’re excited to make it happen,” Lander stated.

The Lander Group envisions a “great street” from its soon-to-be complete project at 38th and 28th east to Hiawatha. They intend to invest in streetscaping improvements along the corridor. The new city street within the development, the extension of 30th Ave., will be a full city street and not merely the bus lane that is there now and it will have broad sidewalks.

One of the highlights of the site for the public is a 100 by 40-foot plaza along 38th and the lightrail line. This will be a privately-owned public space with sidewalks along the edge, seating, planters, and a water feature within 20 feet of what developers hope will be a restaurant.

The public improvements will be financed and paid for by new resources directly from the project—new property taxes, a Hennepin County Transit Oriented Development (TOD) grant, and a Met Transit Livable Communities TOD grant.

Due to the large scale of the project, The Lander Group broke things up and asked first for approval of the plaza and “building 2,” the 10,000-square-foot structure next to the lightrail line.

The aim of building two is to welcome visitors to the neighborhood with an upward sweeping roof line and glass atrium. The unique wedge-shaped building will hold office and retail space on three levels, two above grade and one below. A modern design with brick and glass will be used, and the plan calls for a large mural facing the lightrail tracks.

To move the project forward, the planning commission reviewed a rezoning request (to C3A Community Activity Center District), a conditional use permit for a planned unit development, and two variance requests. The variance requests were deemed unnecessary due to varying interpretations, and the others approved by the planning commission.

While the design includes windows on all sides of building two, due to how city staff calculates the window requirement they concluded that the building had only 9% of the required 40% windows. Unless the window began at two feet, it was not counted at all in the calculation.

Lander Group staff argued that the plan calls for windows beginning at three feet as the use on that level will be a restaurant, and they wanted more flexibility in where to position chairs than a two-foot window would allow.

Lander Group staff also questioned the city staff desire to have 25% of the seating with backs in the plaza be stationary and argued that non-stationary seating would be better suited for the plaza. Commissioners agreed.

Buses will travel in loop
The new plan for the station brings buses and traffic in at the existing location, which will be the new 30th Ave., west to 29th, and south down 29th. Four bus bays will be created to make boarding more efficient. Parking will be removed entirely on the west side of 29th St. south of its intersection with the new east-west street to accommodate the bus traffic and ensure buses aren’t operating next to parked cars. Five parking spots on the east side will also be removed, adding up to a total loss of 20 parking spaces along 29th.

At its intersection with 38th St., 29th Ave. will be widened to a three-lane section with a southbound through and left turn lane, and a right-turn-only lane. A new stoplight will also be placed there.

Following a traffic study, planners believe that traffic will be better with these changes. Currently, the transit driveway and stoplight is less than 200 feet from the intersection of 38th and Hiawatha. The additional distance should provide longer and more discernible gaps in traffic.

Presently, there are about 4,600 weekday daily trips into and out of the station area. About 2,200 passenger trips arrive to board transit per weekday with about 1,600 of those attributed to the Hiawatha Blue Line and about 600 boardings per day occurring on the three bus routes. About 28% of LRT boardings access the station from buses, so about 75% of bus activity at the station is related to transferring to and from the LRT.

Three new buildings in all
Buildings one and three will come before the planning commission “soon,” according to Lander.
Building one will anchor the development as a mixed-use structure and replace the existing single-family homes on the east side of 29th. Street-level retail space will be divided into three individual bays, totaling 8,000+ sq. feet. Interaction between the new five-story building and the existing Cardinal Bar building will create new pedestrian zones to encourage socializing, rest, and outdoor dining opportunities. Housing units (135 in total) will sit above the retail base and surround a central open courtyard.

There will be 109 underground and 85 at-grade parking spaces for residents, employees, and longer-term parkers. Access will be from 29th St. and the new bus turnaround street. Besides providing ground level parking, the central courtyard water infiltration system will filter rainwater runoff through a landscaped area before releasing it into the city system.

Solar panels on Building One will offset energy use, and residential areas will include recycling receptacles on each floor.

Department of Community Planning and Economic DevelopmentTo the south of 38th St., the new mixed-use building three (illustration right submitted) will have over 2,700 square feet of street-level retail space facing 38th St. The 24 market rate affordable units will provide a mix of studios and two-bedroom floor plans. Fourteen spaces of off-street parking will be available for tenant use.

In documents filed with the city, planners envision 38th Street Station becoming a hub of alternative transportation options, supporting light rail with bicycle storage options, dedicated shared vehicle spaces, and encouraging a walkable neighborhood.

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