The Walkway project to replace Cowboy Slims?

Featured, Real Estate — By on May 11, 2011 11:13 pm

Clark Gassen presented plans to the LHENA neighborhood tonight that outlined a new real estate development for the property on the northeast corner of Lake Street and Girard Avenue, currently home to Cowboy Slims.

The project, dubbed The Walkway, would replace the existing building and parking lot with a new six-story building containing street-level retail/restaurant space and 87 “boutique apartments” in five-floors above it. Two levels of underground parking would provide approximately 93 stalls of public parking and 109 stalls of residential parking.

In a nod to the ‘Girard Meander’ called out in the Uptown Small Area Plan, the project proposes removing the east parking bay of Girard Avenue and converting it into a pedestrian walkway that would be 22’ wide. Gassen and his architect, David Graham of ESG Architects, indicated that there seemed to be some City support for the conversion and that they were working through the preliminary discussions on that matter.

The Walkway in Uptown Minneapolis - site plan

The site plan for The Walkway in Uptown Minneapolis. Girard Avenue is on the bottom, Lagoon Avenue is on the left, and Lake Street would be on the right.

The site plan shows a ground floor with larger restaurant/retail tenants of approximately 7,500 square feet on each corner of Girard Avenue, one at Lagoon Avenue and one on Lake Street. Apparently a national retailer who heard about the project already is interested in the Lake Street space. Along the mid-section on Girard Avenue would be up to six storefronts totaling about 6,900 square feet. The entire first floor would have a height of 22’, which would allow the users to have mezzanines should they choose, as well as create a base of the building that would be in keeping with other buildings in the area, according to Graham.

The upper five floors would be set back from the first floor approximately 15’ on the Lagoon and Girard sides, while the Lake Street façade would be set back 30’ to allow for a deck for apartment tenants. The 87 units would have a mix of unit types, with a focus on introducing some less common floor plans into the Uptown market. The project calls for approximately 16% three bedroom units, 16% two bedroom units, 28% one bedroom plus den units, 22% one bedroom units, and 16% nook units, which are essentially studios that have separate bedrooms but aren’t big enough to be considered traditional one bedroom units.

In order to get the project in the ground, Gassen will seek conditional use permits to construct a multi-family building greater than 5 units, a conditional use permit for height, and likely a few other standard requests (site plan review, etc.). Graham didn’t believe any variances would be required. Should approvals come this summer and financing gets finalized, Gassen hopes to start construction in spring 2012. While Gassen didn’t seek formal support from the LHENA Zoning and Planning Committee this month, members commented favorably on the project. The group will review the proposal at its June meeting.

As for tenants, Cowboy Slims had a short term lease and Gassen indicated that the new restaurants won’t be like Slims or Drink, rather will focus more on food. The project is using both a retail and restaurant consultant to help design the space and to think through the right tenant mix. Without marketing the project, Gassen indicated that over a dozen restaurants had contacted him about the space, including one national restaurateur.

The Walkway in Uptown Minneapolis - view looking at NE corner of Girard/Lake

Looking at the Girard Avenue facade of The Walkway in Uptown Minneapolis. Lake Street would be on the right.

The Walkway in Uptown Minneapolis - view looking at the Girard Meander

The Walkway in Uptown Minneapolis - view looking at the Girard Meander

The Walkway project in Uptown Minneapolis - looking at SE corner of Lagoon Avenue and Girard Avenue

The Walkway project in Uptown Minneapolis - looking at SE corner of Lagoon Avenue and Girard Avenue

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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  1. Champs says:

    I’d say this sounds like a terrible idea, but that only encourages them.

    • Anders says:

      I’m curious why it’s a “terrible idea.” This seems like one of the more community-sensitive proposals in recent memory, adding new residents, businesses, and public space (the expanded sidewalk), all on a pretty tight footprint in the core of the district. At first glance, this seems like a great idea. One less awful surface parking lot, if nothing else.

      • Champs says:

        The Calhoun Village area was already given over to luxury MDUs and office space. Decades later, you see how “happening” things are over there, and that’s being right on the lake!

        Meanwhile, Hennepin-Lake area streets are already at capacity. I don’t exactly see how adding density for more driving residents/workers will do anything positive, to say nothing of the crowd that will be drawn by another Cowboy Slim’s-type establishment.

        I realize that this is the unstoppable march of Uptown, but midrise mixed-use structures with marginally successful retail lining Lake and Hennepin are pumping up a bubble waiting to burst.

        • Anders says:

          The city of Minneapolis once held over a hundred thousand more residents than it does today. I think the city will handle more people just fine. Traffic concerns are legitimate, but the solution isn’t stopping growth. We’ve seen almost zero local leadership on pedestrian safety or making transit a more attractive choice. As for housing, well, vacancy rates are low in the area and demographers predict more growth in the core cities. Seems like a winning bet in the long term.

          The problem with the Calhoun Village area lies in design. You see what more parking and wider streets gets you: a suburban nightmare in the big city.

          And it’s worth pointing out that the last paragraph of this article specifically says the hope is for restaurant tenants not like Slim’s. You can be happy to hear that.

          • Champs says:

            And having lived in a Gassen property, I have no expectations of his hopes, much less promises to be fulfilled.

        • Cedar Phillips says:

          What’s the obsession with driving? The great beauty of this location is that it’s one of the BEST locations in all of Minneapolis for those of us who prefer to get around without needing a car. Walkable to everything, great bus access, the Greenway is right there. All those new residents will be spending their money in the neighborhood, helping provide additional jobs and, I hope, more demand for more daily life-type amenities and businesses. I don’t think there’s much in common with the Calhoun Village area, which is far more auto-oriented.

          • Cedar Phillips says:

            Wanted to add — By “obsession” I meant the people who oppose development in general, not Champs in particular. (no idea whether or not you’re one of the parking and traffic-obsessed locals or not.) I just think that we need to collectively get over the need to put traffic and parking as a top priority.

          • Nathaniel says:

            I wanted to further Cedar’s comments that neighbors have become “concerned” or, more appropriately, “obsessed” with parking and traffic. I firmly believe that Uptown is a walkable, urban neighborhood with great pedestrian and bike access coupled with good transit alternatives. Parking should be an afterthought and not the primary concern.

  2. Ben says:

    From even before Cowboy Slims opened, the owner had said he was planning on reinventing the space two years later. Same deal with his previous establishment in the spot.

  3. Cedar Phillips says:

    Looks fine to me. It’s filling in that space — a bland building and its parking lot — with some much-needed density. Not thrilled about the reference to a national restaurant and retailers, but that’s part of a larger discussion. As noted, it packs a lot into a compact space. I also like that they are including some 3-BRs; it can be tough to find those.

  4. Garrett says:

    Love it! This should be a great addition to the heart of Uptown. Like Anders said, good riddance to another ugly parking lot!

  5. Joel Haugen says:

    I think this plan looks great but wish they’d go the extra mile and convert all of Girard between lagoon and lake to pedestrian walk / plaza. That surface level parking lot won’t be missed.

    • Thomas says:

      I agree, that sounds like a really good idea actually.

      • Andrew says:

        Girard between Lake and 31st is already the walkway for Calhoun Square and the parking garage. Taking over the whole street from 31st to the Greenway is a fantastic idea to provide some very much needed open space for what will be a very well developed Calhoun Square.

  6. Thomas says:

    I think this is a marvelous idea. Just one more step to making Minneapolis a must denser and more livable city able to compete with housing in the suburbs as well as other cities. For this project I say yes!

  7. Jon says:

    What a beautiful building. If it ends up looking like that when it is done I am for it.

  8. Jason says:

    This project has me really excited.

  9. Nathaniel says:

    This looks like a great project! I’ll be very happy when the surface parking lot covered.

    I wanted “ditto” the point made earlier about MPLS population figures. In the 1940/50s, the City did have approximately 100,000 more people. Uptown is really starting to become a great “second center”. It’s definitely more lively than the much larger is size downtown St. Paul

  10. John says:

    This project would enhance the urban character and energy of Uptown. The street level is open, playful, and engaged with the pedestrian. It celebrates the urban experience. Great design!

  11. J says:

    Slims has a nice patio. Other then that I agree. Need more night life in uptown

    • Nathaniel says:

      I would like to see not only nightlife but more “daylife”. I think the Mosaic building is a good start, but I love the idea of bringing people to Uptown all times of the day. I’d personally like to see that happen through the development of more office space.

  12. As a soon-to-be former resident of Uptown Lake Apartments, it will be sad to see my amazing view of the lake and Uptown theater blocked. However, since I’m moving to the Eiten Building and ditching the aforementioned lame Pinnacle managed property, I say build it and I will come back and live in one of the boutique apartments (since THAT will be how I get my view back). ;-)

  13. Mark says:

    Amazing idea!!! Cowboy slims belongs in cottage grove!!! The sooner this project gets approved, the better!@

  14. Ian says:

    Mark gets it!

  15. Joe says:

    Any new info about this project? i could get used to not having to see that waste of space cowboy slims

  16. April says:

    Does anyone know how to find out the price of the Apartments? Also when are they going to be completed?

    • Thatcher Imboden says:

      Info not available yet by my guess $2 to $2.25 per sq ft per month. 1BR apt will run $1050 to $1400 probably. Complete late 2013 perhaps. Details scarce thus far

      • Thomas says:

        Does anyone know if there is a leasing website for this property? Isn’t it a little late for them to not have any info on this place online?

        It looks like a great property and I am excited to see it completed.

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