Residents offer suggestions for proposed Linden Hills development

LINDEN HILLS — Linden Hills resident Mark Dwyer took matters into his own hands when he purchased the Famous Dave’s lot at 43rd Street & Upton, but now he’s looking to find out what the neighborhood wants him to do with it.

Dwyer held the first of many community input meetings on Feb. 19 to explain the process and gather thoughts and ideas from residents. "Collaboration starts tonight," Dwyer said.

"I’m not a  developer," he explained to the group, "but I have absolutely fallen head over heels for this place. I have tied up the properties with every nickel I’ve got."

The meeting essentially served as a brainstorming session for residents to voice their concerns, opinions and ideas for the development.

"What’s going on tonight is very unique," said Casey Collins, a member of the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council (LHiNC). "This is a different and unique process for an urban neighborhood."

Brian and Carrie Ehlers, who own a Dunn Bros at 50th & Xerxes, said they would like the development to include retailers like a bank or grocery store.

"If we could walk to do banking and other services, we’d never have to leave this six-block radius," Carrie said.

Most residents agreed that Linden Hills needs some basic services, such as a dry cleaners or a bank. They also said they’d like to see the development appeal to many different generations and have places that are open at different times of the day, such as shops, pubs or restaurants.

"The key is to mix services for the neighborhood with places that draw in people from the surrounding areas," said Keiko Veasey, a LHiNC member.

Brian Ehlers added that they want to keep the businesses local. "I think the neighborhood would strongly object to a national brand," he said, and many other residents agreed.

Other ideas for the location included a multi-level development, with retail on the ground floor and office space and housing above.

"It’s going to have to be dense," Dwyer said. "We need to be vital and viable. If we aren’t, we’re going to lose the energy we have now."

Zoning could be an issue for the development if the project wants to have retailers opened for longer hours, said Curt Gunsbury, a self-proclaimed "accidental developer" who owns apartment buildings in Uptown.

"Basically, you get to design about 10 percent of it, and the code determines the rest," he said.

Dwyer said that if and when the project started, it would take about a year. He also added that he hopes Edward Jones and Famous Dave’s would be able to stay in business during and after the construction.

"This is just the beginning," Dwyer said about the process.

Veasey said people are fortunate to be able to share their opinions on this kind of development.

"We as neighbors should feel very lucky that we can give our input on this," she said.

Brian Ehlers added that "it’s really great that Mark’s facilitating this, because whether we like it or not, there is going to be a development in this area."