Expansion planned for Karmel complex

Karmel Square
Sabri Properties plans to demolish its oldest commercial building, Karmel Square, and replace it with a six-story apartment building and parking. Submitted image

A new plan for the Karmel shopping complex just south of the Midtown Greenway would add more apartment units, retail space and parking to the Whittier commercial and residential area.

The proposal from Sabri Properties, which was presented to the Planning Commission Committee of the Whole on Sept. 26, would add 89 apartments, 192 parking spaces and about 36,000 square feet of retail space to the two-building Karmel shopping complex along Pillsbury Avenue. Karmel Mall, a different Sabri Properties shopping center above the Greenway, would not be changed.

Currently, the complex south of the Greenway has two commercial spaces: Karmel Square (a two-story shopping center facing Lake Street) and Karmel Plaza (a four-story shopping center facing the Greenway). A parking garage stands between the two shopping centers.

Sabri Properties’ proposed project calls for two phases.

Phase one is to replace Karmel Square with a six-story apartment building and underground parking. The building would contain 43 apartments ranging from one- to four-bedroom units and 105 parking spaces, according to documents submitted to the city. The first and fourth levels of the existing four-story parking garage would be converted into retail space for current shops in Karmel Square, with parking retained on the middle floors.

Current vendors in Karmel Square would move into commercial space in the parking garage before the building is demolished, according to Sabri Properties vice president Roshelle Evans. The Karmel Square building was purchased by Sabri Properties owner Basim Sabri in 1998, Evans said. It’s the oldest property the company owns in the area.

“It’s a bit of an eyesore,” she said.

Phase two of the project would bring a second six-story building with 46 apartments and 87 parking spots on Pleasant Avenue. This phase is likely to be proposed later, according to documents submitted to the city. The space is currently owned by Miller Towing and would need to be acquired by Sabri Properties before a second phase could begin, Evans said.

Sabri Properties owns and operates several commercial and residential spaces near Lake & Pillsbury, mostly catering to the Somali community. They contain dozens of stores, offices, restaurants and a mosque. (A plan to expand Karmel Mall, located between Grand and Pillsbury avenues along the Greenway, was denied by the City Council in 2015.)

Currently the Karmel shopping complex south of the Greenway is considered two legal, nonconforming shopping centers by city zoning classifications. The expansion would require rezoning from an industrial to a commercial designation, a conditional use permit for the six-story building and a conditional use permit to expand the shopping center. The area would also need a site plan review.