East Calhoun sees development plan for 31st & Holmes

Developer Jim Graves envisions an Italian restaurant and expansive residences at 3041 Holmes Ave.

The six-story building would feature nine residential units — two per floor, most of them 2,500 square feet, capped by a 4,500-square-foot penthouse. Underground parking would include 18 spots for residents. The residential floors would step back from the building edge, with the penthouse further set back from the residences below.

The restaurant would front 31st Street next to Lucia’s, with valet parking to accommodate all visitors in vehicles for a fee.

Pete Keely of Collage Architects said the predominantly stone building would feature metal highlights for a “Park Avenue feel.”

“It’s intended to be a high-end, luxury, great-looking building,” he said.

The developer said he originally planned to build rental apartments, but after feedback from potential occupants, decided to consider condominiums instead.

At a June 15 meeting of the East Calhoun Community Organization (ECCO), some residents worried about additional traffic a restaurant would generate. Some asked for more onsite parking, or suggested they skip the restaurant altogether.

Keely said there is a high cost to add more underground parking, and the small site limits the number of stalls another level could provide.

Graves said he expects to personally live in the development, and said he wants to be a good neighbor. He said he’s met with the new owner of Lucia’s and they both want to address traffic issues. Graves said he may rent the metered spots in front of the property to provide ample space for valet service.

Some residents at the June meeting critiqued the height of the project.

“To me that building looks no different than what you see downtown,” said Carol Dines, a nearby resident. “I want to maintain a village down here, and we’re losing it with every construction project.”

In response, Graves said the setbacks would be “phenomenal.” He noted that the proposed six-story height is the same number of stories as the Solhem apartments on the same block.

“When you’re walking you don’t even see the tower, all you see is the restaurant,” he said. “…I think it’s for the better — or do you like the parking lot?”

“I think there should be more options,” Dines said in response.

Linda Todd said the height would set a precedent for any future development in the Sons of Norway parking lot across the street. Height is the biggest battle ECCO has fought for many years, she said.

Other residents welcomed Graves to the neighborhood. Some applauded the project’s high quality, and said they liked the idea of adding a restaurant to the corner.

“I think this is a really exciting project, and I want to make sure it gets some support here too,” said Ben Kerl, a nearby resident.

Graves said if he was only focused on making money, he would build student-style housing packed in as tight as possible. He contrasted the project with new construction along the greenway.

“We’re not using cheap fake materials like you see everywhere,” he said. “This building will stand the test of time.”

Graves said he is known for his candor (he mentioned his run against Michele Bachmann), and said that while he respects community opinions, he doesn’t anticipate making major design changes.

The project is scheduled to go before the Planning Commission Committee of the Whole on June 18. The developer seeks to rezone the site from the residential R4 to C3A, a Community Activity Center district. A conditional use permit is needed to increase the height from the permitted four stories (56 feet) to six stories (80 feet). The project also needs a variance to reduce the north interior side yard setback from 15 feet to 5.6 feet.

Pending city approval, 11 months of construction would likely begin this fall.