Early plans released for big E-shaped South Uptown apartment

A developer’s early pitch for a sprawling E-shaped apartment building in South Uptown calls for 74 luxury rental units marketed toward people downsizing from single-family homes. Submitted rendering

A developer’s tentative plans for a sprawling South Uptown apartment complex would place an E-shaped building along Hennepin Avenue south of 35th Street. 

The Lander Group’s early pitch for the site, brought before a Planning Commission study group on Dec. 12, calls for 74 luxury rental units and 92 underground parking spaces marketed toward local residents downsizing from single-family homes — “people of means who drive cars,” in the words of project architect Bob Loken. 

The brick-and-stucco building would be composed of a variety of one- and two-bedrooms — many with balconies, terraces or access to a landscaped courtyard — beneath two large penthouse suites. The basement parking garage would be accessible via the rear alley and include a car elevator.  

The site is currently occupied by two single-family homes, a handful of apartment units and a mix of commercial uses. (A short segment of the apartment would stretch into the back parking lot of the turn-of-the century brick commercial building at 3501 Hennepin, but that segment could be removed from plans if the co-owner of the building doesn’t sign off on the project.)

The Lander Group will be asking for zoning changes in 2020 to allow a five-story residential building at 3501-3525 Hennepin Ave., but the apartment’s stepped design, coupled with a heavy elevation drop toward the back side of the property, means the structure’s height would vary depending on the angle from which it’s viewed. 

From Hennepin Avenue, the building’s three bar-shaped segments appear three stories tall, topped by a recessed fourth story. But from the rear, where the building’s main body overlooks a row of single-family homes along Girard Avenue, it will appear to be five stories high, plus a set-back sixth story. The goal of the recessed top story, Loken said, is to minimize the building’s impact both visually and in terms of the shadows cast.

An elevation drop toward Girard Avenue means the building will appear to be five stories tall, topped by a recessed sixth story, from the rear. Submitted rendering

The proposed site of the apartment encompasses six city lots that are currently zoned for either medium-density residential (R4) or small-scale commercial uses (C1), with apartments capped at four stories and commercial buildings at 2.5 stories. Under the Minneapolis 2040 Plan, expected to go into effect in 2020, all six lots would be rezoned to Corridor 4 — a mixed-used designation allowing buildings of four stories or higher along high-frequency transit routes. 

The Lander Group’s current plans would require all six lots to be rezoned to an R5 multi-family zoning that caps most development at four stories. The group is seeking variances to build higher than four stories and to reduce the rear and interior side yard setbacks.

During the informal study session, planning commissioners praised the early design’s courtyards and staggered “mass distribution” but pressed the architect to come up with ideas for reducing the building’s climate impacts, such as adding solar panels or preserving mature trees. Planning commission president Sam Rockwell encouraged the developer to include commitments to reducing climate impacts in the building design to improve its chances of being approved at more than four stories.

The Lander Group does not expect to submit a formal land use application until summer 2020. The apartment’s project team is scheduled to present its latest plans to a South Uptown neighborhood committee on Jan. 15.

Andrew Hazzard contributed reporting to this story.