Mixed-use apartment building planned for Uptown

A rendering of the proposed 10-story mixed-use apartment building at Lake & James in Uptown. Submitted image.

A 10-story mixed-use building that would align with new city policy of inclusionary zoning passed in connection to the Minneapolis 2040 plan has been proposed at Lake & James in Uptown.

The plans call for 127 residential units. Thirteen of those units, or 10 percent of the total, would be priced affordable to those earning 60 percent of the average median income, bringing it in line with the city’s interim inclusionary zoning policy, and another 13 units would be affordable for those earning 80 percent of the average median income.

Last year when passing the 2040 Plan, an update to the city’s comprehensive plan, the City Council approved an interim inclusionary zoning policy requiring large projects to make 10 percent of their units affordable at 60 percent of the average median income. That equates to rent of $1,062 for a one-bedroom apartment.

In addition to the residential portion, plans for the building also call for a 3,500 square-foot commercial space along Lake Street. There would be 90 parking spaces spread across two subterranean levels under the current design for the building.

“We think this project has a lot to offer the neighborhood,” said Chris Kirwan of Oak Management and Development Company, the project’s developer.

The current site is home to four duplex-style homes now owned by Oak Management and Development Company.

The unit mix includes 66 studios, 47 one-bedrooms, 16 two-bedrooms and six penthouse units. The one-bedroom units would range in size from 550 to 800 square feet. Two walk-up units along James Avenue would be townhouses.

Plans call for a shared gym space and patio for residents.

“The project is really about providing a variety of unit types at different price points,” said David Miller, principal for UrbanWorks Architecture in Minneapolis.

The building, named James & Lake, has grown substantially since it was initially proposed in May, when it was envisioned as a six-story apartment building with no commercial space. The building would be slightly shorter than the peak of the nearby Sons of Norway development and about 20 feet taller than the Edgewater Condos at Lake & Knox.

“We think it really matches with other projects in the pipeline,” Kirwan said.

The proposal was presented to the Planning Commission Committee of the Whole on Jan. 31. Current zoning on the four existing parcels is split between C1 neighborhood commercial and R4 multi-family residential. The site is also within a shoreland overlay district, which has a by-right height maximum of 2.5 stories or 35 feet. The project will require a conditional use permit to go higher.

The firm also will be seeking variances for a setback reduction, parking reduction and a height increase.

Given the project’s location on a high-frequency transit route, Kirwan said he’s optimistic the planning commission will be receptive to the taller building.

“We feel this project is reflective of Uptown,” he said.

Some local residents aren’t so sure.

David Tompkins of the East Calhoun Community Organization’s Livability Committee said that while he supports density, the ten-story project seems too large. Current R4 zoning allows for four stories in the area, while the 2040 Plan recommends allowing up to six stories in the area.

Tompkins said he was happy to see affordable units in the project, but added he feels a shorter building would be a better fit.

“We just feel it should be more in scale with the neighborhood,” he said.

Tompkins said the neighborhood has not spoken with Oak Management since the project grew in scale but noted the developer will meet with ECCO 7 p.m. Feb. 18 at St. Mary’s Church.