Calhoun’s Weisman redevelopment comes into focus

At an April 27 public meeting, developer Michael Lander unveiled a four-building, 65-70-unit condo/townhome proposal on the site of the Weisman Enterprises headquarters, 2626 W. Lake St.

The project will include one 10-story, one eight-story and two three-story buildings. Lander, founder of the CARAG-based Lander Group, said the smaller buildings are closer to the Midtown Greenway to minimize potential shading.

However, the project itself and the building heights have raised concerns among some of the 85 southwest residents in attendance.

Zoning

The unit count is within the property’s OR2 zoning, which allows up to 98 units. However, the site – just across Lake Street on Calhoun’s north shore, is in a Shoreland Overlay District (SOD), which has stricter limits.

Buildings within an SOD must be no more than 2.5 stories tall or 35 feet high, whichever is lower. However, the city can grant a conditional-use permit (CUP) to bypass the restriction.

Recently retired City Planner Blake Graham told the crowd that the city has granted such permits in the past. Last November, the City Council allowed the 28-unit Edgewater project on Calhoun’s northeast corner to rise six stories within the SOD. The decision provoked neighborhood opposition in East Calhoun and surrounding neighborhoods.

Neighborhood views

Henry Lindner, a Southwest worker with family ties to the area, said exception to shoreland height rules should not be granted. "If it’s a good project, it should be able to stand on it’s own," he said, adding that neighborhoods have been barraged in recent year with large development.

However Cedar-Isles-Dean resident Paula Skjefte, a prospective condo-buyer, said she thought the project was "gorgeous."

Said Skjefte, "I was afraid it would be taller."

Instead, she called the development, "quaint – more neighborhood-y."

Lander plans a landscaped connection to the Greenway where the rail trail meets Thomas Avenue South – between the Lander site and the 12-story Calhoun Beach Club, 2925 Dean Pkwy.

Area development

Despite the amenities, former Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association (CIDNA) board member Tom Buck said he was leaving the neighborhood rather than live behind such developments.

Buck said he thinks Lander and two other developers who are planning CIDNA residential projects are sincerely trying to balance city and commercial interests and work with residents. However, he said after the meeting, "My personal preference would have been for no development at all, and the impact of these developments, along with the probability of rapid transit in the Greenway corridor and the dire economic situation in the city have resulted in quality of life issues for me."

The other developments are Mathwig Development’s 100 proposed two-bedroom-plus units at 3104 W. Lake St. (next to Tryg’s Restaurant, 3118 W. Lake St.) and the Ackerberg/Village Green plan for 152 apartment units at the former Ministers Life Insurance headquarters, 3100 W. Lake St., behind the Lake Pointe Corporate Centre.

At the meeting, Lindner, focused on the Ackerberg project, circulating a petition asking that Ackerberg tighten traffic plans for the project by closing a planned private driveway onto Dean Parkway and providing free visitor parking without time restriction. Ackerberg has previously said he’d support permit parking if residents wanted it.

Lander said he would keep meeting with CIDNA and any other interested neighborhood. He expects to start the city approvals process this spring or summer and hopes to begin construction by spring 2006.