Neighborhoods react to Sons of Norway development proposal

An overview from the northeast of the Sons of Norway project, located south of Lake Street between Holmes and Humboldt. Rendering courtesy of Ryan Companies

While Ryan Companies refines its design for the Sons of Norway site at 1455 W. Lake St., residents are sending letters to the City of Minneapolis with feedback on the proposal.

Plans call for six- and seven-story structures with about 325 apartment units, 15,000 square feet of office space for a new Sons of Norway headquarters, and 7,000 square feet of retail on much of the block south of Lake Street between Holmes and Humboldt. The three-story Sons of Norway building would be demolished, and single-family residences and an apartment building on Holmes would remain intact. About 340 parking stalls would stand in enclosed and underground parking. An approximately 10,000-square-foot “fjord,” a privately-owned public green space, would feature an ice rink. A break in the building façade on Lake Street would hold a plaza to usher people into the fjord.

A round 105-foot structure would stand at the corner of Lake & Humboldt, a design that has found both admirers and critics. Apart from the corner, much of the structure fronting Lake Street would stand at 82 feet, according to the proposal submitted last fall, with a height of 68 feet on 31st Street and mid-block heights of 68 feet on Holmes and 85 feet on Humboldt.

As currently proposed, city officials would need to rezone the southern portion of the site from R4 to R6 to allow higher density.

At a Nov. 20 Livability Committee meeting of the East Calhoun Community Organization (ECCO), residents raised concerns about the proposed height of apartments along 31st Street.

[Update: The ECCO board voted to oppose the project Dec. 7., and shared concerns in a letter to city staff.]


A view from 31st Street of the Sons of Norway project. Rendering courtesy of Ryan Companies
A view from 31st Street of the Sons of Norway project. Rendering courtesy of Ryan Companies

Resident Jaana Mattson, who lives on the Sons of Norway block, said the scale of the project will erode neighborhood livability.

“The placement of these buildings, occupying ¾ of a city block, less than ½ mile to the lake and right on the cusp between the mostly traditional single-family housing and the newer contemporary high density living of the neighborhood, makes it a crucial area of transition, critical to the integration of old and new and keeping Uptown vibrant without losing its character and identity,” she said in a letter.

The De La Pointe luxury apartments across the street at 3041 Holmes rise six stories (81 feet). Committee Chair Susie Goldstein said De La Pointe is part of Uptown’s “Activity Center,” an area targeted for growth in the Uptown Small Area Plan, and it shouldn’t be used as precedent for the Sons of Norway site.

“Now we’re marching into the neighborhood, therefore we would like more of a real transition,” she said.

Some residents suggested negotiating for more height on Lake Street in exchange for shorter heights on 31st. Others worried about adding hundreds of residents to the block, and said parking fees would send too many vehicles to park on the street.

“That is a huge uptick in the number of residents in that block. We don’t have a building like that in ECCO,” Goldstein said.

Not everyone in attendance agreed with the concerns. Nearby resident Ryan Brown said East Calhoun is a neighborhood with diverse needs among renters and homeowners.

“I’m a person who doesn’t have a car,” he said. “I’m living that lifestyle. It’s happening.”

He said he expects Minneapolis’ population to continue to grow, and noted that Council Member Lisa Bender, a candidate that is open to more density, won re-election.

“Density is coming,” he said. “This is our opportunity to engage with that process.”

A rendering of the outdoor space at the Sons of Norway project. Image courtesy of Ryan Companies
A rendering of the outdoor space at the Sons of Norway project. Image courtesy of Ryan Companies

The Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association (LHENA) approved a letter of support for the project, praising the project’s ice rink, stormwater management and location near other Holmes Avenue multifamily buildings that are complete or under construction. LHENA encouraged the developer to work with Intermedia Arts on public art and offer larger three-bedroom units for families.

In response to a LHENA questionnaire, Ryan Companies said the massing along 31st Street was designed in a “similar rhythm” to other brick buildings in Uptown.

“The building height is similar to, although slightly lower than, three recently built [projects] across Holmes Ave.,” states the response. “As the project gets closer to 31st St the top story is set back through use of a mansard roofline. Along Holmes and Humboldt, the elevations are residential in nature, and the design palate is focused on single color masonry with classic building lines.”

Ryan Companies’ Vice President of Real Estate Development Tony Barranco said the project’s setbacks from Humboldt Avenue have increased in response to neighborhood feedback.

A draft Travel Demand Management Plan projects 73 new morning peak hour trips and 69 new afternoon peak hour trips in the area, anticipating that vehicle trip generation would remain low given bicycle, pedestrian and transit options. The plan accounts for a 2,250-square-foot coffee shop and a 4,750-square-foot restaurant. Barranco said retail leasing is many months away.

The project is expected to advance for a Planning Commission vote in January.