Theatre Garage project secures Planning Commission approval

A six-story building with 113 units, retail and a restaurant is slated for the southwest corner of Lyndale & Franklin. Rendering by Collage Architects

The city Planning Commission has signed off on plans for the six-story Theatre Garage Apartments at Franklin & Lyndale.

A 6,800-square-foot restaurant would stand at the corner, with a 1,200-square-foot fitness space on Lyndale and walkup units fronting Lyndale as well. The 113-unit building at 2004-2018 Lyndale Ave. S. would include more than 140 parking spaces located underground and in two levels above ground. Theatre Garage is no longer part of the project, and plans to close.

The redesign of the project has generated less opposition than the initial proposal approved by the city two years ago. The developer has said the initial land deal fell through, and a new development partnership is now in place.

The latest version of the project is reduced by 4.5 feet at its tallest point, holds 31 more units and features two fewer floors of above-ground parking.

Most of the building would stand 63.5 feet tall, reaching about 69 feet at the highest point near the intersection.

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The Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit to increase the height from four stories allowed by right to six.

At the Planning Commission hearing, Stevens Square resident Kathleen Hokanson said she likes the project’s architect, but not the location. She said it’s challenging to reach the co-op and move through the neighborhood by car.

“We don’t like the fact that you want to build it bigger than the code. If you know the area, we can’t afford any more people. … We’re not the Greenway, we’re the gateway,” she said.

“This height is allowed with conditions, as long as the applicant has met those conditions,” Council Member Lisa Bender said in response to concerns. “Generally speaking this height is allowed here as long as the applicant has met the conditions in a conditional use permit.”

In this case, city staff recommended approval of a conditional use permit because a study found the building would not cause traffic congestion, and the building’s bulk is concentrated on Lyndale and Franklin and steps down in height at the rear parking garage. Staff also noted that the intersection is located in a valley.

“There is a significant grade change … at this intersection, so the actual elevation of the top of this building would not be taller than the building that’s actually on Bryant nearby,” said Senior City Planner Lisa Steiner.

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Commissioner Ryan Kronzer said he wants to call attention to the project’s impact for pedestrians. He called the spot one of the worst pedestrian environments in the city, and he said the developer would improve the sidewalks by cutting down the crossing distance on Lyndale and adding street furniture.

“The height of the building itself is actually going to calm the street,” he said. “There are studies showing that the taller the buildings … the slower the cars go. While yes we might be bringing a few more cars to the site, I believe the end result for the neighborhood is going to be a better pedestrian environment, and a better car environment, because the cars are going to be moving slower here.”