Track 29 project appealed

Featured, Real Estate — By on February 26, 2011 10:07 am

After the Planning Commission approved the Track 29 project, located on the north side of the Midtown Greenway between Bryant Avenue and Aldrich Avenue, William Casey, on behalf of the Midtown Lofts Condominium Association, appealed the decision. The matter will go before the City Council Zoning & Planning Committee on March 3, 2011.

According to the City Staff report, Mr. Casey outlines that their concerns are related to the northern building facing Bryant rather than the one facing the Midtown Greenway. They request that the project be modified to step down in height to better transition to neighboring properties. In testimony from Mr. Casey at the Planning Commission hearing prior to the appeal, much of the testimony focused on density concerns where he said the original project called for 112 units and now it’s 225 units in total, which was concerning to him. The applicant responded that the density allowed on the site is between 40-120 units (per acre) and that their proposal is for approximately 80 units per acre. City staff confirm it’s 81.5 units per acre and that it was appropriate for the site.

It’s unclear what will happen at the City Council with regard to this appeal, but the decision will likely be based on whether the City Council believes the decision by the Planning Commission is consistent with adopted City policy, such as the Lyn-Lake Small Area Plan and the Midtown Greenway Land Use and Redevelopment Plan, as well as zoning ordinances. If the plans and code indicate that the project exceeds recommended density levels and/or if the project largely does not conform with the plans, then granting the appeal would be likely. But plans often have many recommendations and statements that can be argued for or against a project because the documents are very long and try to address a variety of issues. That usually means that there are lots of shades of gray and not a lot of black and white to make decisions.

Thatcher Imboden

How cities work and change, how they are the product of their inhabitants and outside forces, and the resulting livability keep me thinking and dreaming about the future. I work in transit oriented development and have a background in urban real estate development. I am Past President of an Uptown business organization, grew up in Uptown, was on an Uptown neighborhood association Board, and am an Uptown and Lyn-Lake historian.

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24 Comments

  1. Cedar Phillips says:

    More density, not less, sounds good to me! If Mr. Casey prefers lower density living, perhaps he and the people at Midtown Lofts, should have elected to live in a different location. These people are the same types who move out to a new subdivision in the exurbs, then complain when a new subdivision is built on the empty fields next door.

  2. STP says:

    Jesus, this is why we never get anywhere. People are hardly doing anything to encourage high density growth. When anyone proposes something that would be better for the future some person whines about how it is too high… This is not the suburbs my friend, this is a city which is trying to grow, not stay stagnant. I know this may sound angry, I’m just so fed up with people trying to stop the cities growth.

  3. Garrett says:

    At the Planning Commission meeting, Casey and several other residents complained about the proposed project’s height despite the fact that they live in a building that is nearly as tall as the proposed project.

    These elitists were also complaining about the fact that these new units wouldn’t be owner-occupied. Welcome to Uptown, Mr. Casey. They’re probably just pissed that their private, ad hoc dog park and views of Downtown will be taken away from them. These folks have too much time on their hands, and if they really cared about the vitality and future of Uptown, they would applaud these upcoming projects.

  4. STP says:

    “At the Planning Commission meeting, Casey and several other residents complained about the proposed project’s height despite the fact that they live in a building that is nearly as tall as the proposed project.

    These elitists were also complaining about the fact that these new units wouldn’t be owner-occupied. Welcome to Uptown, Mr. Casey. They’re probably just pissed that their private, ad hoc dog park and views of Downtown will be taken away from them. These folks have too much time on their hands, and if they really cared about the vitality and future of Uptown, they would applaud these upcoming projects.”

    THANK YOU! This is basically what I was trying to say. Except much more intelligently.

  5. Ian says:

    wow! we should all go to this meeting to show that more people would like to see the city grow, than would like to see the city simmer down into an almost suburban environment.

  6. Anders says:

    I like Ian’s idea. Make the committee (or full council) hearing a stage for people who love living in a dense, vibrant city to share those values and make a political statement. NIMBY won’t cut it in the 21st century. I’m definitely thinking of going.

  7. STP says:

    Don’t we want to be more like Seattle, San Fransisco, Portland and Denver and less like Phoenix or Dallas? Lets build up, not out.

  8. Thomas says:

    I really do have a problem with lower density construction. I understand it is just a one floor difference but I really don’t think we should build to short. Uptown has some room for infill now, but considering it is hard to build very tall there soon open land in that part of the city might be taken up. Since this is a dense and high demand area, why not build up. I know there are limits in height in uptown and I agree 20 or even 10 floors can be too much, but c’mon. Enough with this NIMBY rhetoric.

  9. Nathaniel says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the comments above! I just wanted to add 3 things:

    1: An Unfortunate Fact) The owner-occupied residents of the Midtown Lofts are opposing the development because they fear it will adversely effect their property value (loss of sight, amenity, etc.). They are (well, most likely) under-water on their mortgages -what they paid for their space in 2005 doesn’t reflect its current value. They don’t want a further decline in value.

    2: Why they are wrong) They believe #1, but they are, of course, wrong. The idea that density will harm property values is a myth. It won’t. We have based public policy (e.g.: Euclidean zoning restrictions) on the assumptions of contemporary mythology. The Midtown Lofts should be welcoming a new development (as opposed to the empty lot / makeshift dog park). It’ll probably serve as a boost to their re-sale value.

    3: Organizing) I’d love to get a group to support the development at the City Council meeting- however, I feel as if it would be hard to get a group organized to support a development when they will derive little or no economic benefit. It would be purely political/ideological.

    Good luck though!

  10. Bryan says:

    It’s extremely unfortunate that this post (and most of the comments) misrepresent the appeal. I’ve been heavily involved in the process to have this development amended. The single family homeowners on Bryant and surrounding streets have also participated in the process, and while we did make initial comments pertaining to density the main concerns have always been step down and parking.

    A majority of us actually like this development (except for the lack of step down and transition), and like the other proposed developments in the area (Bennet East, Buzza Building, Acme Tag, Etc). Our problem is that you have a 6 story building transitioning into 2 story single family homes, the Local Area Plans are pretty detailed about prescribing a stepped down architecture and in the case of Track 29 it’s completely possible to accomplish this step down while maintaining their current density. Secondly, the means with which the development used to obtain approval for the additional height violate city ordinances, and these ordinances use black and white language.

    Finally, who is looking at parking for not only this Track 29 development, but the entire area? I don’t park on the street, but if you do you might want to consider that 1000 new rental units are being proposed (completed around 2013) within a 5 block radius of Bryant Ave. If you look at the surrounding streets on a Friday/Saturday night they’re packed with cars of folks going to businesses all over Uptown – which is awesome. But what are these people and renters going to do about parking when these new units are built? What are the cities plans to address this? Is it adequate to award parking bonuses for a development like Track 29 when their parking spot to unit ratio is ~ 1:1? Our thought is no.

    As a group we have been organizing and we have more than just Midtown Lofts owners that agree with our views on these developments, and I would encourage anyone that has an opinion (on either side) to show up to the hearing and be heard. Just to clear things up, we oppose the development in its current state – not the development in its entirety or development in general. Secondly, I’m definitely not an elitist; I’m a normal guy that has had to take off work multiple times to argue for and with my single family home neighbors that will be affected a lot more by this development than I will.

    • Nathaniel says:

      Bryan – I think we can find common ground on three issues:

      1) Transitioning: Depending on the design, it can be inappropriate to place a 6 story building adjacent to a single-family home and you bring up a value point with Track 29.

      2) The Local Area Plan: I have been very critical of the City Council and their approvals (and granted variances) that ignore small area plans. An example being the proposed CB2 building near Calhoun Square where the conclusion of hours upon hours of local planning was virtually ignored by the Planning Commission and Council. The City has been sending mixed messages to neighborhoods – on one hand they strong advocate detailed local area plans, yet quietly ignore them in the building approval process.

      3) Your “Elitism”: Knee-jerk reactions to differing urban planning viewpoints should be avoided as it doesn’t really help or further the dialogue. I believe the “elitism” comment was merely directed at the Uptown NIMBY stereotype – I wouldn’t take offense to it (To be entirely fair – I would be living in an owner-occupied Uptown unit … if I could afford it).

      • Bryan says:

        Nathaniel:

        Through being a part of this entire process I’ve learned a couple of things about it that have opened my eyes to how the city evaluates projects like Track 29, and something we should all be paying attention to are the reports that come from the City Planning Staff. In this particular case, the report that was produced recommending the developers conditional use permit (including height variances and amenities) and the plat report to the city zoning and planning committee was responsible for the approval and the misrepresentation of the local area plans. It’s these reports that the Z&P committee members use to make their decisions so it’s where the interpretations all begin.

        The elitism and NIMBY comments are people stereotyping – unfortunately. What I care about is making sure that the views and voices of Midtown Lofts residents and the other 25+ single family home owners we’re representing are heard. We’ve had numbers at every meeting from LHENA to the City Council, and I have not seen anything close to this type of turn out from the other side. In addition, none of the folks who have posted comments on this blog were at yesterday’s hearing, but I was. Along with a few other people which included non-Midtown Lofts residents (who also presented).

        I’m not sure why the people that posted on this blog didn’t show up in support of this development, but my guess is that when you present before the City Council you have to bring a better argument than these NIMBY people are crazy, or move to the suburbs or c’mon take these elitist people’s dog park away. Whatever the reason, I’d encourage anyone that feels that something isn’t right to get actively involved with the process, show-up and be heard; however, this takes a little more commitment, action and courage than sitting at home and spitting insulting comments onto a blog.

        • Anders says:

          Bryan notes “I’m not sure why the people that posted on this blog didn’t show up in support of this development.”

          To which I reply: “Work.”

          I think this is getting a bit personal, though. Many of us do go to Council or Planning Commission meetings, join community organizations, vote, write emails or letters, etc. (I’ve done all of those, and I know others have) — suggesting otherwise is false and pretty presumptuous. As for the broader masses, well… they typically just don’t care enough to get involved. And I’d say that’s pretty understandable, because whether or not a 6 story building in the heart of a city should step down to 4 stories at one end seems pretty inconsequential if you don’t start to think about the broader implications of this sort of argument.

          Anyway, let’s keep this civil. No one’s hurling insults, at least not intentionally.

        • Cedar Phillips says:

          I can tell you why I wasn’t able to make it — because I didn’t have daycare available. If I had more money I’d have been able to find a babysitter to watch my son for a few hours, but the reality is that times are tight, and I simply don’t have that luxury. Perhaps that’s where the elitism comments come in; the people who can show up for weekday morning meetings are those who can afford to take time off from work (and have a job that gives them that flexibility. That’s what I find so offensive in so many of these debates: some people forget that not everyone is lucky enough to have flexible schedules, and often those are the same people who tend to be younger, have less money, and are more likely to be overlooked by the powers-that-be. Rather than dismissing opinions simply because they are expressed on the internet, the neighborhoods and cities should be EMBRACING that as a way to get a different read on some of the feelings on the street. The smug “come to the meetings or your opinion doesn’t count” attitude is what makes accusations of elitism so believable. I don’t know that this particular case is an example of “elitists” at work, but in general in the Uptown discussions, yes, I do think there is some aspect of “elitism” at work, or at least a lack of willingness to acknowledge that it shouldn’t be just the loudest voices who get to make the decisions that impact everyone in the neighborhood. The throwing around of phrases like “single family home owners” also strikes the wrong chord with me; it is certainly an accurate description and is not in itself a values judgement, but in the context of Uptown I think we’ve all heard disparaging comments about “renters,” and some of us are perhaps sensitive (justifiably, I think) to any inference that the people of Uptown should be divided into different classes, with the unspoken assumption (well, sometimes it’s a bit more overt) that the owners of single family homes sit squarely at the top of the heap, and therefore should have more say than anyone else.

        • Thatcher Imboden says:

          Bryan, what is your specific concerns with the Track 29 project?

    • Urbanite says:

      Havent heard much about this project lately. I think this project may be dead. Congrats, Bryan! You killed it! How do you feel now that you got what you wanted???

  11. Cedar Phillips says:

    My opinion: who cares about parking? If you want a guaranteed parking spot, then rent a place that comes with parking. Otherwise I don’t think it’s the developer’s or the city’s obligation to ensure readily available parking for residents of the neighborhood. The idea that parking is a right is outdated. Want a parking spot? Move to somewhere that offers it, rent a spot from someone else, or move to a neighborhood in which the parking situation isn’t tight. Given that most of Minneapolis (including many blocks in Uptown) fits the bill, someone who moves into the heart of the Wedge and then complains about parking doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. No one is “owed” a parking spot. If parking is that much of a hassle and one doesn’t want to park a couple blocks from home or pay for a spot (or move), then there are options like getting rid of the car and going with bikes, walking, bus, and HOURCAR when needed. There ARE alternatives here, and while I can understand WANTING to have convenient parking, we don’t all get what we want.
    That said, it may be time for a look at some targeted parking management measures; two-hour parking except with permit in some areas, that sort of thing. There are other ways to approach perceived parking issues other than mandating new developments to cater to the needs of cars, not people.

  12. Jan says:

    I have no problem with new development and applaud building on the vacant lot. It just frustrates me that the developer is being awarded points for amentias that don’t follow the plans and ordinances for the area. Parking was only one of the items the developer is not following. Why does the city put these plans and ordinances in place if they don’t enforce developers to adhere to them?

  13. Bryan says:

    Hi everyone, I haven’t seen an update on the appeal so I thought I would post a quick comment as resolution occurred yesterday. At the 3/3 hearing, after discussion on the appeal, the developer asked for a stay on the committee vote for 1-2 cycles allowing them to meet with the neighbors on the appeal issues.

    Council member Tuthill hosted a series of meetings between 3/3 and 4/1 in which the Track 29 development group and a group of residents discussed and agreed upon a series of project changes/improvements. The city planning staff then drafted a memo to the Z&P committee which included these changes and the recommendation to move the project forward. So the appeal was denied in part and approved in part to adjust the conditional use permit to include the recommended changes. If you’d like to see the minutes:

    http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/2011-meetings/20110415/ZPAgenda20110407.asp

    The changes to the project were:

    – Relocation of the Bryant street exit to 28th street.
    – The building facing the Midtown Greenway is 6 functioning stories. Prior there was a non-functioning 6th story – the height ends up the same at 74 feet.
    – The Bryant ave building was decreased a story from 5 to 4, and although not mentioned in the memo or committee notes, the step down was increased as well.
    – The front yard setback on Bryant was increased from 10-15 feet.
    – The pet exercise area and children’s playground were both relocated. The pet exercise area is no longer between the 2 houses on 28th street and the children’s playground was moved to the center of the property – both are now accessible from the property (prior residents would have needed to walk around on Bryant or Aldrich to 28th to access the dog park and kids playground).

    I was part of the group that met on these changes and that worked on the appeal, and overall it was a cool thing to be a part of. The Track 29 development team and Council member Tuthill were both awesome to work with and everyone is happy with the outcome.

    Our main goal was always to attempt to have the project adjusted to step down the architecture and adjust the exit on Bryant Ave. As a result the density for the project remains exactly the same at 225 units in total.

    • Thatcher Imboden says:

      Thanks for the update Bryan. It sounds like a good win-win situation. It sounds like the project will probably be more attractive as well by having more height variety. Now if we can only get the building(s) built.

  14. Ryan says:

    Has there been any update as to when this project will actually take place? Thanks!

  15. Ryan says:

    Any update on this project? I see new little white flags placed around the site between Aldrich and Bryant that indicate a fence will be put up by Midwest Fence. Yesterday I also saw two men that were looking around the site and examining the Aldrich manholes in the area.

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