Car elevator proposed for new Whittier apartments

A rendering of the proposed 63-unit apartment building at 28th & Garfield. Submitted image

A new five-story, 63-unit apartment building with a car elevator is being proposed in Whittier.

The project, from Yellow Tree Development Corporation and designed by DJR Architecture, would replace two existing multi-family housing structures at 28th & Garfield. The developer is scheduled to present the design to the Planning Commission Committee of the Whole on March 14 and will also meet with the Whittier Alliance Housing Issues Committee on March 19.

The building would include an automated garage feature that will enable parking for 49 vehicles, with 25 standard stalls and 24 more units accessed by an automated stacking feature to maximize space.

“The car stacking system, I think, is going to be key,” Yellow Tree co-founder Robb Lubenow said.

New construction would replace one 12-unit apartment building and another, multi-unit home. Lubenow said they have been in discussions with the building residents about their plans since purchasing the properties last summer. Many of the units are vacant, but those that are occupied are currently on month-to-month leases, Lubenow said. There are about 17 people living in the building, he said.

The existing, 12-unit building at 601 West 28th Street. Photo by Andrew Hazzard.
The existing, 12-unit building at 601 West 28th St. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

If and when the project is approved by the city, Lubenow said they would give residents an additional 90 days in the building and have been offering to help residents move into a similar property Yellow Tree owns at 28th & Harriet.

Yellow Tree acquired the properties in June 2018 for $1.66 million, according to Hennepin County property records.

Most of the units would be either studios or small one-bedroom apartments, according to city documents, with a few two-bedroom units. Floors two through four would have 16 units each; the fifth floor would have 14 units and community space indoors and on the deck. Three walk-up units would have access to Garfield Avenue.

The design calls for a lobby with a work area and fitness studio on the first floor, along with an enclosed parking garage. Lubenow characterizes the project, much like other coming Yellow Tree apartment buildings coming to Nicollet Avenue, as new construction for an underserved market: workers earning between about $32,000 and $50,000 per year who don’t qualify for affordable housing and likely can’t afford new luxury units.

“No one is building for the market we’re trying to satisfy,” Lubenow said.

The developer is seeking a conditional use permit to increase the maximum height in the area, zoned an R5 multi-family district, from four stories and 56 feet tall to five stories and 62.5 feet. Several variances are also sought, including setback reductions on three sides.

The area is designated as Corridor 6, which calls for heights of two to six stories, by the Minneapolis 2040 Plan. The plan is currently under review by the Metropolitan Council.

Lubenow said they are hoping to go before the full Planning Commission next month for approval and, if approved, construction would likely begin in 2020.