High times may return to Lake Calhoun

Three housing projects could test shoreland development height limits

While the housing redevelopment business is red-hot downtown, the craze has returned to Lake Calhoun’s north shore.

Three unrelated projects are close enough to the lake to trigger the city’s Shoreland Overlay District, a statute limiting how tall buildings near most Minneapolis bodies of water can be. In the past, height has been a major flashpoint between residents and lakes-area developers, and the Cedar-Isles-Dean neighborhood finds itself grappling with a possibly controversial trio.

The three projects are:

– 100 new high-end condos on the site of the Warco-Variant building, 3104 W. Lake St. The land is next to the new Tryg’s Restaurant, 3118 W. Lake St. The

developer is St. Louis Park-based Mathwig Development.

– 150 rental units where the former Ministers Life Insurance headquarters now sits, 3100 W. Lake St., behind the Lake Pointe Corporate Centre. The project is a joint venture between Uptown developer Stuart Ackerberg and the Village Green Company, which completed two condo developments in the Lyn-Lake area this year. Ackerberg owns the site.

– A condo/retail project replacing the Weisman Enterprises building at 2626 W. Lake St. — known for its prominent spyglass facing Lake Calhoun. The CARAG-based Lander Group is the developer and has a purchase agreement.

Preliminary plans

Mathwig Development owner Troy Mathwig said he plans to develop condominiums in Southwest because "so much of the fear of [condo] saturation is downtown. Right now, there’s so much room to grow" near Lake Calhoun.

Mathwig said his condos would be high-end, two-plus bedroom units. He said he hopes to start construction in late 2005, figuring for a 15-month construction time before occupants can move in.

Ackerberg said plans for his apartment project with Village Green aren’t fully developed yet; the building will share parking with the Lake Pointe Corporate Centre building. "The condo market is hot, but we think long-term is rental housing," he said.

Ackerberg said construction should start in late 2005, with occupancy by late 2006. He said he’s talked with a few residents and has identified parking and traffic issues that needs more work. Ackerberg said he plans to go back to the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association (CIDNA) with more information soon.

Lander Group President Michael Lander said he’s in the very early planning stages of the Weisman site development, just east of the Calhoun Beach Club. For example, he said he still hasn’t decided how many units the project will have.

Lander said Weisman Enterprises would relocate. He said he hopes to start construction by 2006, a schedule that allows lots of planning time. He will host a Jan. 13 public meeting to discuss his plans with residents (see information box).

Zoning and Lake Calhoun

Developers for each project have met informally with a CIDNA committee in recent months to discuss their plans and neighborhood development goals.

Bob Corrick, co-chair of CIDNA’s Redevelopment Committee, said his group approved "development guidelines" in December so developers would know the neighborhood’s expectations.

The guidelines address everything from aesthetics, zoning and sound to traffic, parking and environmental mitigation, plus many other concerns.

Corrick said the height issue brought some concerned residents of Lake Calhoun’s east side to a recent meeting.

The city’s Shoreland Overlay District (SOD) limits buildings within 1,000 feet of a body of water to no more than two-and-a-half stories or 35 feet high whichever is lower. However, the city can give a conditional-use permit (CUP) to bypass the restriction.

Such permits are common, as existing high-rises such as the Calhoun Beach Club indicate. In November, the City Council allowed the 28-unit Edgewater condo redevelopment at 1805 W. Lake St. on Lake Calhoun’s east side of Lake Calhoun to have six stories.

The decision provoked vocal opposition at neighborhood meetings in the surrounding East Calhoun, East Isles and CARAG neighborhoods. Corrick said some of those residents attended CIDNA’s meeting, voicing concern about the height potential for the new developments.

Neighbors eventually appealed the Edgewater’s CUP to the Council but lost. While neighborhoods commonly make recommendations to the Minneapolis Planning Commission and City Council, neighborhoods have no formal "veto power."

Corrick said CIDNA so far has no comment on any of the three new proposals in their neighborhood.

Absent Shoreland Overlay limits, the zoning for the three Cedar-Isles-Dean parcels permits a four-story building or one that is up to 56 feet tall. All were aware that the Edgewater was able to bypass the shoreland limits. However, none of the developers has decided on their building’s height.

While Mathwig said the city’s Edgewater decision could set a precedent for other developments, Ackerberg said each neighborhood would probably confront the height issue in its own way.

Each developer said he would discuss his building’s height with residents and plan to visit the CIDNA board with updates and for dialogue as his projects progress.