New layout proposal for the Uptown project includes apartments and more office, retail, and green space
Long-awaited Uptown development Mozaic probably won’t come to fruition as originally planned, developers said at a Wedge Zoning Committee meeting earlier this month.
In a new design presented at the meeting, plans for condos, a hotel, and a new Lagoon Theater were replaced with a different layout that included market-rate apartments and more office, retail, and green space.
The $150 million mixed-use project slated to go up along Lagoon and Fremont Avenues has been in the works for several years and was approved by the city after an intense battle with some neighborhood residents. But sales of the project’s originally proposed 135 condos never took off and a 63-unit reduction after last year’s addition of a 140-room Graves hotel came too late to help.
Sales haven’t budged past 37 since spring, and financing — in a market that has spurred lenders to seek more than 60 percent sales in many cases — hasn’t been secured.
If a deal can’t be struck by the end of the year, Mozaic’s condo buyers will be refunded and developers will move forward with the new plans, said Stuart Ackerberg, whose company The Ackerberg Group is working with Clark Gassen’s CAG Development on the project.
"The condo market has imploded," Ackerberg said. "And so along with that we’re down to one [funding] source, which I don’t have great hopes for as far as coming through on some financing.
"In anticipation of the reality that the condos probably aren’t going to work, we’ve tried to look at the site and see what might make the most sense," he said.
Here’s how the numbers stack up in the new plans: 135 apartments, 60,000 square feet of office, 18,750 square feet of restaurant space, 6,250 square feet of retail, 720 parking stalls, 24,000 square feet of plaza space, 14,950 square feet of roof terraces and 15,180 square feet of ground-level green space. (Apartments on the rise.)
A nine-floor, 112-foot building behind Drink would contain five floors of above-ground parking, as well as office and retail space.
The Lagoon Theater — originally planned to be demolished and incorporated into the new development — would remain unchanged, a decision made by the tenants who have a long-term lease there, Ackerberg said. Behind the theater and the Bar Abilene building would be a U-shaped building that includes a one-story retail component, a six-story housing section and an eight-story housing section.
"We’re not asking for anything more than what we had before as far as height and density, and sometimes less," said project architect Jack Boarman of BKV Group. "But we are rearranging the function due to the economics."
Between the buildings would be a large public plaza that connects to the Metro Transit bus lane to the north and Lagoon Avenue to the south. A pedestrian bridge wide enough to support kiosks would go over the Midtown Greenway.
Two floors of parking would be available under the complex with main parking entrances located on Lagoon and Fremont. A Hennepin Avenue lot entrance would be available for 51 lot users with reservations. All parking would exit on Fremont.
The hotel concept was erased because there wouldn’t be enough room for it or enough users to justify its success with the new plans, Ackerberg said.
Members of the Wedge Zoning Committee had mixed reactions to the revisions and posed more questions than could be answered during the roughly one-hour presentation.
"I like the concept of the housing on Fremont in the neighborhood and the concept of the office toward Hennepin because I think it kind of enforces the neighborhood boundaries that the neighborhood wants to maintain," said committee member Rita O’Keeffe.
Committee Chairman Peter Sukki Kim said he was concerned about the visibility of the plaza from Lagoon. Earlier plans called for a more dramatic plaza entrance.
"Before, it was exciting, but I don’t see exciting now," he said.
If developers go ahead with the new plans, it will bring to an end a long wait for Mozaic condo buyers, some of whom have grown increasingly frustrated.
Buyer Chris Douglas has been waiting a year and said he’d be glad to get his $32,000 down payment back.
"I’ll just be happy when I have a check in the mail," he said.
Though he’d be relieved to get a refund now, that’s not what Douglas enthusiastically signed up for a year ago. The news of revisions is bittersweet, he said.
"There is a sense of disappointment that this isn’t going to come to fruition," he said.
City Council Member Ralph Remington (10th Ward) has taken a look at the new plans and said he didn’t come across anything that stood out as a problem. The revisions should still fit within the parameters of the Uptown Small Area plan, which should be in place early next year.
"It shouldn’t be as contentious as it was before," said Remington, who was pleased to see the Lagoon Theater unchanged in the new plans.
Ackerberg said he planned to return to the neighborhood group soon with more detailed plans. He said he’d like to get through the city approval process by spring so construction can begin in 2008.
Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected]
Mozaic before and after
USE — 2/17/2006 proposal — 12/12/2007 proposal
Office — 40,750 square feet — 60,000 square feet
Theater — 1,550 seats — 800 seats
Restaurant — 10,250 square feet — 18,750 square feet
Retail — 3,310 square feet — 6,250 square feet
Parking — 792 stalls — 720 stalls
Residential — 135 condos — 160 apartments
Setback from Greenway — 25 feet — 0–16 feet
Plaza area — 20,000 square feet — 24,500 square feet
Roof terraces — 24,500 square feet — 14,950 square feet
Ground-level green space — 6,250 square feet — 15,180 square feet