Linden Hills neighborhood leaders explain opposition to Linden Corner project

The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council (LHiNC) discussed the proposed Linden Corner development at our Feb. 7 meeting, and voted to recommend that the City Council deny the required land use applications. Because this is a contentious development, with strong support on each side, LHiNC would like to explain its     recommendation.

LHiNC supports redevelopment of this prominent site. We believe additional housing and businesses, if designed correctly, would bring added vitality to our neighborhood. However, for several reasons, we do not believe that our community’s character and the proximate neighbors should be sacrificed at the expense of this proposed building.

Height:
The proposed Linden Corner development is like placing a cruise ship on Lake Harriet. The building would be five times the height of the adjacent commercial building to the west and twice the height of the condominium building to the north.

Length: The proposed building is 254 feet long. To put this in perspective, it is twice as long as the longest building in the vicinity — the three-and-a-half story apartment building on the east side of Sheridan. That building is 130 feet long.

Character:
The strength of downtown Linden Hills is its historic “Main Street” America character. People are attracted to Linden Hills because of its small town feeling. Small towns in Minnesota have two-story, and occasionally three-story, buildings. Small towns do not have five-story buildings in the hearts of their downtowns. Planning 101 prescribes that communities build on their strengths, not weaken them. The proposed five-story building runs strongly contrary to the historic “Main Street” small-town appeal of Linden Hills.

Impact to Neighbors:
Front yards are supposed to be the public spaces while backyards are supposed to be private spaces. Three single-family homes backup to the proposed development. Currently these homeowners have functional, private backyards. With condominium units five-stories high, only 20 feet away (a car’s length), looking down into their backyards, these homeowners will lose the private use of their backyards.

Transitions:
Only six buildings in the area are taller than three stories. Of these six, only one abuts a single-family property. However, that building (at the southwest corner of 44th and Upton) is the same height as the adjacent single family structure. The other five buildings over three stories have appropriate buffers from single-family residences. The proposed five-story building, on the other hand, is 20 feet from three single-family lots and is twice as tall as those single-family residences. This is not an appropriate transition.

90,000 square feet Floor to Area Ratio (FAR):
It is a fallacy that the developer is allowed to build up to 90,000 square feet, regardless of other development standards in the Zoning Ordinance (building height, setbacks, parking, etc.). The development proposes a five-story building because that’s the ONLY way to achieve 90,000 square feet on the five-lot site. It’s physically and legally impossible to build a three-story building with 90,000 square feet because a three-story building (meeting the city’s height requirement) would still need sufficient space on site for service deliveries, ramps to access the underground parking and surface parking spaces for patrons of the new businesses.

Pocket Park:
LHiNC does not support the vacation of the pocket park because it is at the epicenter of the Linden Hills downtown — the perfect location for residents to meet as they crisscross the streets patronizing the local businesses. Moving the pocket park farther north would be like St. Paul moving Rice Park to the outskirts of its downtown.

Linden Hills Design Guidelines:
In 1996, the neighborhood underwent an 18-month planning process that resulted in the publication of “Linden Hills Neighborhood Design Framework: A Plan for the Commercial Districts.”  One of the primary objectives stated in the plan is to “Maintain a building form that echoes that of the traditional buildings of the 43rd and Upton precinct: two to three story ‘Main Street’ buildings.” A five-story building at the epicenter of the Linden Hills village would not strengthen the “Main Street” building form.

Open House:
On Dec. 11, LHiNC sponsored a neutral, information-based Open House attended by the developer, the opposition group and over 600 residents. Of the 537 participants who completed our questionnaire, 73 percent opposed the project.

LHiNC appreciates the developer’s interest in our downtown and thanks everybody who attended the Open House and/or submitted their comments to us. Linden Hills is a desirable place to live, and we believe our neighborhood does not have to settle for a development that significantly changes the character of the downtown and has significant negative impacts to the surrounding properties. We should expect any development to not only add vitality to our downtown but also to meet the City’s requirements and policies, including the height limit of three stories. LHiNC’s full review can be found at lindenhills.org.