Planning Commission approves affordable apartments at Lake & Harriet

Rendering by ESG Architects

The City Planning Commission has approved a six-story apartment project at 410 W. Lake St., located at the northeast corner of Lake & Harriet next to Lake Wine & Spirits.

The proposal from Lupe Development would build 111 residential units and 1,000 square feet of commercial space. Developer Steve Minn said the entire project would be affordable at 30-60 percent of the area median income, with nine units targeted for homeless veterans.

410 W Lake aerial view

The building would hold two green roofs, murals, a solar panel system and a transit shelter on Lake Street.

Planning Commissioners originally said a former design at 510 W. Lake St., which flew over the alley, was too bulky, Minn said. He responded by negotiating to purchase the property on the other side of the street at 410 W. Lake St. Now he’s proposing two phases of identical buildings on each side of Harriet Avenue, both with affordable housing and units for veterans.

He said that while city staff might be disappointed that retail only amounts to 1,000 square feet, placing retail in an affordable housing project is a logistical “nightmare” and he can’t find more space for it.

410 W Lake 2

The proposal asked the city to upzone the site, approve a special permit to build higher than four stories allowed by right, and build 52 parking spaces instead of the required 55 (following the commission’s design changes, parking is now estimated at 49 spaces).

The Planning Commission’s approval went against the recommendation of city staff, which recommended denying the project in part due to the impact on smaller houses to the north. Instead, commissioners voted to step back the northside top floor by 10 feet.

410 W Lake 3

Noting the six-story Lyndy project nearby, Commissioner Jono Cowgill said lower density has become the exception to the rule in the area. Council Member Jeremy Schroeder said he appreciates the developer’s months of work with the neighborhood. Commissioner Nick Magrino said the area needs more affordable housing and the location makes sense between Lake & Lyndale and Lake & Nicollet.

Todd Ferrara of Standard Heating & Air Conditioning said his family has owned the property since 1940, and he’s turned away many other offers for the site. He moved about 50 employees to North Minneapolis with the help of the developer, he said.

“If we waited longer, we’d probably get a lot more money. We think that this is a great project for the community,” he said, adding that workforce housing is important for the neighborhood.

Tommy Johnson from the Uptown VFW said there are nearly 200 homeless veterans in the metro, and said he supports the project.

A Whittier Alliance committee also voted to support the project, saying they’ve talked with the developer for the better part of a year. However, Whittier residents said they want to see organics composting in the building, custom bike racks on Lake Street, permanent planters, entries that align with the character of LynLake and small commercial spaces.

“As the number of available rental units continues to plummet in Whittier and city-wide, the market rate for those remaining has continued to rise,” states a letter by Kaley Brown, Whittier’s interim executive director. “While not perfect, Lupe Development’s commitment to providing these units at more affordable rent levels for 30 years through the tax credit program is a step in the right direction for the creation of more reasonable housing options in our neighborhood.”

410 W Lake 1

LynLake Business Association Chair John Meegan said he was worried about Harriet Avenue becoming a “concrete jungle,” but he’s come around to the project and praised the forthcoming murals, bike racks, street furniture and participation in the LynLake special service district, which pays for extra improvements to the area. LynLake will likely continue to change, he said. Side-by-side houses between the Greenway and Lake Street are being purchased for $500,000 apiece for redevelopment, he said, and he suspects the same will happen for the nearby houses here.

Following the meeting, Minn said he plans to appeal the commission’s design changes, which added a northside setback and added townhome units instead of garage access on Harriet. He said the project could not easily absorb extra costs estimated at $500,000 or more, and said the design change would interfere with murals and a lower green roof.