France Ave apartment proposal heads back to City Hall

Linden Hills' Zoning Committee votes to "not oppose" the plans

Linden Hills residents review France Avenue Apartment plans Credit: Michelle Bruch

Following a yearlong moratorium on development in Linden Hills, a developer is back with smaller apartment plans for 4525 France Ave. S.

Developer Scott Carlston said he changed architects, removed a top floor, eliminated commercial space, and reduced the apartment unit count from 62 to 52. The resulting project is a four-story building featuring 58 buried parking spots, mature trees, screened porch rooms and walkup units. It would replace one single-family home, one 15-unit and two 5-unit buildings on the block. The project would require city approval to upzone the lots to R-5.

At a Linden Hills Neighborhood Council Zoning Committee meeting May 20, four of the six committee members decided to “not oppose” the plan. The vote disappointed several area residents in attendance.

“We’ve been mesmerized by your design,” said Mike Gair, who lives a block away from the site. “[But] it’s still a massively large building sitting on France Avenue with very little, if any, transition from a residential neighborhood.”

Nearby residents also expressed concern about the parking and traffic strain the project would place on the area. In addition, the neighborhood is working on a small area plan that would guide future development in the area, and some residents wished the developer would hold off until the process is complete.

“One of the issues we’ve discussed is a three-story height limit,” said Ken Stone, a member of the small area plan steering committee. “There is a clear sense that this is too large for the neighborhood.”

Zoning Committee members who voted in favor of the project said it’s much better than proposals they saw one and two years ago. Those who voted against it said they like the design, but the requested zoning is too dense and the traffic would be too intense.

“There is not much we can rebut. This is an increase in the intensity of the development,” said architect Bob Loken.

He said more residents on France would boost the vitality of Linden Hills’ nearby businesses.

“The focus of the [city’s] comprehensive plan is to restore population that was lost during the rise of the suburbs,” he said.

Carlston said he looks forward to “building a beautiful project.”

“Some folks are not going to be happy no matter what happens, and that’s okay,” Carlston said.

The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council may also take a vote on the project at its June 4 board meeting. The project next goes before the city’s Zoning and Planning Committee, where the committee will take neighborhood views into account.