Planning Commission approves Lydia Apartments expansion plans

A rendering of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative's planned addition to the Lydia Apartments supportive housing facility in Stevens Square. Rendering by MSR Design via City of Minneapolis

The Minneapolis City Planning Commission on Monday approved plans to double the size of a supportive housing facility in Stevens Square.

The commission unanimously approved four applications to allow Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative to expand Lydia Apartments from 40 to 80 units. The St. Paul-based nonprofit will construct a six-story addition on the north side of the existing building.

Lydia Apartments provides permanent housing with support services to people with mental illness and/or people who are recovering from chemical dependency, according to a city staff report. Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation opened the facility, formerly a nursing home, in 2003, despite opposition from neighborhood groups and a court challenge. Plymouth Congregational Church sits across LaSalle Avenue from the facility.

Residents must be formerly homeless, disabled and committed to sobriety, the staff report says. Beacon gives priority to individuals with serious and persistent mental illness and has on-site support services and case management available to all residents, according to the report.

All units are efficiencies with full kitchens and baths.

The existing building will continue to operate through construction, and the project will include minor rehab work to that building, according to the report. The project will also include the updating of common areas.

Rev. Paula Northwood, acting senior minister at Plymouth, told the Planning Commission that the church is very supportive of the project. She added that many Lydia residents are involved in the church and said the church looks forward to working with Beacon to complete the project.

Two people testified against the project on Monday, including an attorney representing the owner of the Semple Mansion, which is south of Lydia Apartments along LaSalle Avenue. The attorney, Tom DeVincke, said the addition would block the downtown Minneapolis skyline view that can be seen from the mansion’s third-floor ballroom, which is used to host weddings. He suggested moving the addition to the northwest corner of the site from the northeast corner, which he said would maintain the downtown view from the mansion.

But an architect for the project, Rhys MacPherson of MSR Design, said that moving the addition would shade the Van Dusen Mansion to the north of the site. He showed a mocked-up view of the addition from the Semple Mansion in which much of the downtown skyline was visible.

“We’re trying to be really sensible about keeping the premier area of the view available for the Semple Mansion,” he said.