West 50th Street luxury condo project on hold

A proposed condo project at a former Fulton funeral home site is on hold, its developer says.

Tom Lohmann of Pinehurst Properties, Inc., plans 40-72 luxury units for the Werness Brothers site at West 50th Street between Beard and Chowen avenues south. Lohman’s plan has been well received by the Fulton Neighborhood Association, a stark contrast to intense neighborhood opposition over an earlier drive-though CVS drugstore proposal.

The problem is that Lohmann does not yet own the land – and after discovering poorer-than-expected soil conditions and other problems, he’s still dickering over price with current owner SCI. Lohman said he has "no idea" how or when negotiations will conclude, but said his plan is finalized enough to submit to the city "the same day" a land sale closes.

Lohmann, who developed the nearby commercial/retail building on the Minneapolis side of 50th & France, plans a four-story-high condo development built in distinct quadrants, without long hallways (see inset at right). The units will resemble brownstones and have multiple entrances and old-fashioned stoops at street level.

The rectangular project would feature units priced $400 a square foot, Lohmann said – roughly $400,000 for a 1,000-square-foot condo. According to Journal’s Condo Pipeline, it would be Southwest’s only new-construction project south of the Lake Street/Excelsior area. Lohmann said the project is aimed at "active seniors" who want to stay in the area while downsizing empty nests.

Fulton Neighborhood Association leaders have reacted positively to Lohmann’s plan. FNA board member Rae Ann Vandeputte said the developer "has been very up-front with us, had a community meeting, shown plans, taken feedback and made some changes."

She added, "I don’t think the design is controversial; I think the concept of a large development there is shocking to some people, but [the development] is within the zoning code, so we don’t have much to say."

Board member John Finlayson termed the reaction "50/50" positive/negative, which he termed "actually quite positive," given the usual opposition to change. He said some people in the vicinity are unhappy about possible shading from the height, but like Vandeputte, Finlayson noted that the project is within zoning height limits – and unlike CVS, doesn’t require rezoning for a more intense use.

Finlayson said a plus is that the project has 109 parking spaces, almost two per unit (the city standard is one per unit). He noted that Lohmann and neighbors were working on how to limit headlight glare from exiting cars on nearby houses.

Before the land sale difficulties, Lohmann projected construction would start in Spring 2006 with a 2007 opening. If the land sale happens, he projects a 16-month construction schedule following city approvals.