CARAG rejects hotel developer’s rezoning request

Project opponents say project defies Uptown Small Area Plan

The developers behind a hotel project at Lake & Emerson recently reduced its height to six stories from nine. Credit: Submitted image

CARAG — Even after developers lowered its proposed height by three stories, the Moxy Hotel planned for the intersection of Lake & Emerson faces stiff opposition from neighbors.

Opponents of the project packed a CARAG meeting Tuesday night, where a resolution urging the City Council to deny Graves Hospitality’s rezoning request passed by a roughly four-to-one margin. The meeting drew close to 50 people, more than double the usual turnout for CARAG’s monthly meetings.

Unlike some other neighborhood organizations that limit voting to board members, CARAG allows all residents and anyone who owns a business or property in the neighborhood to vote. Although no official tally was taken, there appeared to be just 10 votes against the resolution, with roughly half the “nay” votes coming from elected board members.

Prior to being introduced at the monthly CARAG meeting, the resolution against the project was approved on a 3–2 vote by the CARAG Land Use and Transportation Committee. But committee chair Colin Harris — who later cast a vote against the resolution — said “many” of the committee’s members were unable to attend that meeting.

Graves Hospitality plans a six-story, 123-room hotel on two adjacent parcels, 1121 W. Lake St. and 3005 Emerson Ave. S. The developer originally pitched a nine-story hotel, but reduced the total height to 69.5 feet from 84 feet in response to neighborhood concerns.

Plans also call for a height of just five stories on the south side of the building where the neighborhood quickly transitions from the Lake Street commercial corridor to single family homes.

Even at that reduced size, the project requires a rezoning of the underlying parcels to C3A from C2. It would also require a series of variances and a conditional use permit to go over the 56-foot maximum height in a C3A district.

Plans call for the entrances to a proposed first-floor restaurant and the Moxy Hotel’s lobby to open onto Lake Street, but a secondary entrance would face toward the interior of the neighborhood, according to a report city staff prepared for the Jan. 25 City Planning Commission meeting. With the developers still tweaking the design, staff recommended delaying a conversation on the project until the Feb. 8 meeting.

Many of those who spoke against the project Tuesday identified themselves as homeowners living near the Lake & Emerson site. They objected to the scale of the project, the hotel’s potential to make parking in the area even more difficult and the possibility that noise from rooftop patios could disturb neighbors.

They also cited the Uptown Small Area Plan, a document crafted by area residents that is supposed to guide Uptown land use and development. It was adopted in 2008 by the City Council.

The plan is only a guide and does not have the power of adopted city code. But developments that deviate from its suggestions have repeatedly provoked a strong response from Uptown neighborhoods.

The resolution adopted Tuesday by CARAG states a hotel “would be a fine addition to Uptown,” but at a different location, one closer to a several-block area around Hennepin & Lake that is defined in the small area plan as an “activity center.”

After the meeting, Ben Graves of Graves Hospitality said he’d received strong support from area residents, adding that he didn’t believe the turnout at the CARAG meeting was a “fair representation” of the neighborhood.

In response to specific concerns raised Tuesday, Graves said the proposed rooftop patios would have “absolutely no viewing of the neighbors.” He said they’re also in talks with the Ackerberg Group, owner of MoZaic at 1350 Lagoon Ave., to lease spaces in building’s six-story parking ramp that would be used for valet parking.

The Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association’s Zoning and Planning Committee also took action against the hotel project on Jan. 13. It’s tentatively scheduled for a discussion by the full LHENA board when it meets tonight.