Whittier residents chew over ‘Pillsbury Mods’

Crowe/Schaeppi – a company that wants to construct a six-unit townhome named "Pillsbury Mods" at 2619 Pillsbury Ave. – presented a preliminary design to the Whittier Alliance neighborhood group in February.

Principal Brad Schaeppi termed the development a "cool infill concept trend" that would attract new homeowners to Whittier. It would replace a single-family home Schaeppi purchased and moved to in April 2004.

The physical design of the two-story building – cantilevered over the entrance, galvanized steel on the front façade, and flat rooftop deck – would blend seamlessly into the neighborhood’s line of historic but ecletic homes.

"It doesn’t look suburban and it fits in with the block. These are modern homes for a modern lifestyle and a different way of living."

Among concerns expressed at the meeting was that the two-story project fills too much of its 45-by-165-foot lot. Schaeppi notes that the 18-unit, two-and-half story building next door "is larger in height and mass" and takes up more of its lot. There is a five-unit building on the other side.

The lot is zoned R5, which allows the six-unit, 25-foot-high project. However, because the development has more than four units, the developer must get a conditional-use permit from the city. The project also needs a variance because the side entrance will be approximately 10 feet from adjoining lot, closer than the required 15 feet.

Some attendees criticized the building’s side-yard orientation as untraditional and out of step with the neighborhood. Schaeppi said that the challenge of building in Whittier is that most of the yards are deep and long and there hasn’t been much new construction. But he said by using side-yard entrances, he could keep his project to the general two-story heights of Whittier buildings.

He said if he had to build further away from the adjoining lots "it would destroy the design. Everything is based on this new concept."

Another concern was adequate parking. Schaeppi said the project would include a five-car surface parking (on a pervious material called "Eco-stone" to minimize storm water runoff) with bike racks near each unit’s entrance. He said called the project good urban planning that puts higher-density housing near transit stops with a design that encourages alternatives to driving.

The one- and two-bedroom units would be priced between $230,000 and $250,000.

Schaeppi, a former Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association board member, said he met with the Reuse Center and discussed how to reuse the current home’s fixtures such as cabinet doors, floor panels and windows.

The project’s next step is an April 11 date with the Minneapolis Planning Commission, which will vote on the needed permit and variance.

Want to know more? Surf to www.pillsburymods.com or call Brad Schaeppi at 730-1549.