Developer pitches four-story apartments and retail at 43rd & Upton

Developer Clark Gassen is planning a four-story apartment project for the Famous Dave’s site at 43rd & Upton with 6,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor.

Plans call for 29 apartment units built with the potential for conversion to condos in the future.

Fourteen paid public parking spaces would stand on the main level, with 39 lower-level spaces for residents. The top floor, reaching 54 feet, would be set back from the building edge.

The corner “pocket park” would be expanded, perhaps featuring complimentary Wi-Fi, with the building set farther back from the park than previous designs.

The developer expects to break ground in the spring of next year, and in the meantime, reopen the pocket park this summer.

Development plans for 43rd & Upton have evolved over several years, and Gassen’s team is the new owner of the site — some residents cracked jokes about “Groundhog Day” at a recent meeting.

The project area is smaller than the previous “Linden Crossing” proposal. Gassen said the new team decided against buying the neighboring Edward Jones building to construct a larger project.

Much of the discussion at a May 18 Linden Hills Neighborhood Council Zoning Committee meeting related to the building’s size and design.

A portion of the exterior features golden-colored limestone.

“It’s an elegant, rich material with a dark backdrop to really make this material pop,” said Jesse Hamer of Momentum Design Group.

Linden Hills resident Joe Cross said he appreciates all of the consideration put into the pocket park. He’s generally supportive of development in the area, he said, but he isn’t happy with the proposed design.

“It’s almost like you dropped the Walker into Rice Park,” he said.

Some residents critiqued a projecting eave that would accent the roofline of the building.

“I don’t care if something is historic or modern as long as it fits the community,” said one woman in attendance. “This is too massive. … It seems to scream size.”

“I like the building, but the building belongs, say, on Washington Avenue,” said Zoning Committee member Jeff Magnuson.

Gassen said the development team can use the feedback to revisit the design materials, and he noted that the proposed limestone is very expensive.

“We’ll save you some money,” Cross quipped.

Gassen said they are working to build a 100-year project. At neighborhood meetings discussing his Edgewater development near Lake Calhoun, neighbors pushed for a more traditional design, he said. But when the building went up, he said some of the former critics appreciated the effort and the investment in the building.

“Our goal is to create an iconic building on an iconic corner,” he said. “This is going to be different, it’s not 50th & France. We have an opportunity in this room to create something special.”

Zoning Committee member Constance Pepin asked whether he considered building a shorter building. She said the neighborhood’s vision for the corner is more along the lines of three stories.

“We thought about a larger building,” Gassen said in response. “We felt this was appropriate.”

The project would need a city “conditional use permit” for the proposed height. It would also need city approval for its second–fourth floor setbacks in relation to the neighboring 43rd Street commercial building. The request would reduce the setback from 11 feet to nine feet on the north side of the commercial building, and reduce the setback from 11 feet to six feet on the east side of the commercial building.

Linden Hills residents in attendance voted 18-3 in opposition to the project. The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council will next discuss the project on June 2. The neighborhood vote is advisory in nature, and the city Planning Commission determines project approval.