Planning Commission approves Creekside Commons project

TANGLETOWN — Creekside Commons, a 30-unit affordable housing complex proposed for the corner of 54th Street and Stevens Avenue, is one step closer to development.

On Nov. 13, the Planning Commission approved the rezoning, variances, conditional-use permit and water main vacation requests made by the nonprofit developer, Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation (PCNF).

On Dec. 13, the Planning Commission’s recommendations are expected to head to the City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee for approval before going before the full Council.

The City Council also recently granted PCNF a tax parcel credit worth $1.8 million that will go toward funding the $8 million development. According to PCNF Executive Director Lee Blons, the organization is in the process of applying for grants to fund the remaining money and hopes to have the project fully funded in a year.

"[The Planning Commission’s approval] was just a really nice affirmation of what we had done," said Blons. "We’re looking forward to moving forward to the next stage."

This summer, in response to residents’ concerns about size of the building, PCNF reduced their original proposal for 40 units down to 30 units. Blons said the Planning Commission recognized this attempt at compromise. But some Tangletown residents weren’t satisfied with the decrease and find the Planning Commission’s decision upsetting.

"We are disappointed, but undaunted," said Harry Kaiser, leader of Minneapolis Residents for Smart Density, LLC (MRSD), a group of residents that formed in opposition to Creekside Commons.

Kaiser believes that the commissioners are under political pressure to support affordable housing, regardless of its appropriateness for an area. "We don’t even argue about the need for affordable housing in Minneapolis," he explained. "We were arguing about whether the proposal met the conditions for the zoning and variances."

The group hired an attorney to respond to PCNF’s applications, arguing that the development won’t have enough parking, will increase traffic and is too large for its proposed space.

"We felt like we have very fair, very reasonable, well-researched data, hard data, referring to the zoning code, referring to the comprehensive plan, arguing why this thing should just be scaled back so that it matches other things in the area," Kaiser said. "We feel like we brought up a good enough point that we were owed the courtesy of an explanation."

MRSD plans to appeal the decision, which, according to City Council Zoning & Planning Committee Coordinator Anissa Hollingshead, means that the rezoning, variance, conditional-use and vacating requests will go before the Zoning & Planning Committee, rather than just the rezoning and vacating requests. The requests will then go to the full council, which is the final step for approval.

"If the appeal doesn’t go our way, then we have to look at talking to a lawyer to see if we have a case to sue the city," said Kaiser, who lives across the street from the proposed site. He added that, if Creekside Commons gets built, he and his wife would consider moving.

The three-story complex would be made up of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments ranging in rent from $500–$1,000. All of the units would be tax credit or rent subsidized, including one four-bedroom transitional apartment that would likely be reserved for a refugee family.

The developer plans to build a partially underground parking lot with 46 stalls in addition to 22 outdoor spots. Mayflower Congregation Church, the current landowner, is donating the space to PCNF while retaining the right to 12 underground parking spots and some spots on Sundays.

The building would also have community and computer rooms and an outdoor playground. It would be built to meet "green" building standards.