Four-story condo project arouses Lyndale concerns

A proposal to build a six-condo building in the Lyndale neighborhood — with $300,000-$500,000 units — is receiving mixed reviews from residents and city officials.

Concerns range from lost greenspace and more on-street parking pressure to a precedent for taller structures.

Walid El-Hindi of Room, Inc. and Welch Forsman builders want to build the four-story, 45-foot-tall building on the vacant 3228 Garfield Ave. lot, city documents said. El-Hindi said if the project is approved, construction could start in the spring and finish by early 2006.

The developers need to rezone the property from R2B (up to a duplex) to an R5 multifamily district. The City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee was scheduled to hear the request Dec. 16, after the Journal’s deadline.

City staff has recommended the Council approve the rezoning and the project. Area Councilmember Dan Niziolek (10th Ward) said he opposed the R5 zoning.

The Lyndale Neighborhood Development Corp.’s board voted to recommend plan approval, said Executive Director Cara Letofsky. However, the Lyndale Neighborhood Association’s general meeting voted against it 7-9.

Niziolek questioned whether the developer could sell units for a half-million dollars. If the Council approved the rezoning and the project didn’t work financially, the developers could change the project, a lesson he said he has learned the hard way from other projects.

"We might end up in a year seeing a different proposal which is much more intense," Niziolek said.

The developers say there’s no market study yet but prices are similar to nearby new condos. They have no hidden plans to pack in more units, El-Hindi said.

Niziolek said the rezoning would also set a precedent, effectively making that side of the block all R5. He said it was downzoned from R5 to R2B 20 years ago.

El-Hindi said the lot has poor soil conditions that add $100,000 in foundation costs to the project. That’s less of an issue if the cost is spread over six units instead of two.

El-Hindi, a Linden Hills resident, is an adjunct teaching instructor at the University of Minnesota’s College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. He said he wants to set "a precedent for a good development."

El-Hindi said four two-bedroom/two-bath units would each have 1,450 square feet. The two top units would be 1,875 square feet with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.