Neighborhood group weighs in on Calhoun Square rework

The CARAG neighborhood group hosted two June neighborhood workshops for residents to express concerns and desires for the redevelopment of Calhoun Square, 3001 Hennepin Ave. S.

Developer Jay Scott is in the midst of planning a $75 million renovation of the Uptown shopping mall. His plan would expand the center south to West 31st Street and East to Fremont, adding 60 units of housing, an outdoor courtyard and one and a half levels of parking.

Scott has visited the CARAG group many times with project updates and his Director of Leasing, Anne Knuth, has been working with residents.

In the two CARAG workshops, which a professional facilitator hosted, CARAG residents and representatives from surrounding neighborhoods talked about building height, housing diversity, traffic and parking, as well as design and landscaping.

They recommended Scott consider:

– Scaling down a plan for taller buildings – one reaching six stories – to fit in with other area buildings "that retain the character of Uptown."

– Maintaining the complex’s focus on the Lake Street & Hennepin intersection.

– Reserving 20 percent of housing units as "affordable" (no price level was specified) and designating 30 percent of retail space in the center for local, independent merchants. (Because the project has no public subsidy, the city’s 20-percent affordability requirement is not in force.)

– Designating parking ramp access to Lake Street only, rather than West 31st Street, a buffer between the parking structure and houses on Fremont Avenue South.

– Encouraging pedestrian and bike traffic, and offering some free ramp parking to lure shoppers and preserve street parking for residents.

The group also included numerous building and landscaping design recommendations, emphasizing greenspace and unique building materials, "not Block E!!!" the report said.

Knuth said they’re reviewing the recommendations and have met with a few CARAG residents to discuss them. "We definitely value their comments," she said.