Tangletown apartment proposal approved

Planning Commission signed off on parking variance for the 23-unit project

proposed 23-unit apartment building
A proposed 23-unit apartment building near 48th & Grand has received Minneapolis Planning Commission approval, despite opposition from neighbors. Submitted image

An Armatage developer has received approval for his proposed four-story apartment near Fuller Park in Tangletown.

The Minneapolis Planning Commission granted Joshua Segal a variance that allows him to include 10 parking spots in his proposed 23-unit building, instead of the one spot for each unit the city’s zoning code would otherwise require.

The 5–2 vote on Oct. 7 came over objections from dozens of nearby residents, who said 10 parking spots aren’t enough for a neighborhood where on-street parking is already tight. 

“It would be irresponsible to only provide 10 spots to 23 residents,” neighbor Linda Carlson said before the vote.

The commission ultimately voted 6–1 to approve the Fullertown Flats project at 4736–4740 Grand Ave., a half block north of the 48th & Grand commercial intersection.

The site, which currently includes a single-family home and a duplex, is currently zoned for high-density, multi-family development up to four stories in height, though no buildings in the immediate vicinity are taller than two stories and the Minneapolis 2040 plan calls for the site to be downzoned to 2.5 stories.

Segal’s plans call for a mix of 14 studios, six one-bedrooms and three two-bedrooms and amenities such as a fourth-floor community room/coworking space and bike parking.

He told Tangletown residents in September that rents in the building would average about $1,800 a month, including utilities and parking, with studios ranging from $1,200–$1,400.

He wrote in his application to the city that constructing a 23-unit building on the site wouldn’t be possible without the parking variance.

He said he plans to move the existing homes to a vacant lot within a mile of the site.

“I don’t know of a better spot in Southwest for a functional building like this and a spot more deserving than 48th & Grand for those in need of housing,” Segal told the Planning Commission.

Unlike some small apartment buildings proposed in the last few years, the project does not qualify by right for a complete elimination of parking requirements. That’s because the 2015 ordinance that loosened parking requirements mandates that small apartments be within a quarter mile of a stop that buses visit at least every 15 minutes during midday to qualify for the parking requirement waiver. 

Segal’s proposed building is within a quarter mile of bus stops for five different lines. While no single bus route has midday service every 15 minutes, the ease of access to routes 4, 18, 46, 113, 135 and 146 amounts to a similar level of convenience for transit riders, said staff for the city’s Department of Community Planing and Economic Development (CPED), which recommended approval of the parking variance.

“I honestly cannot think of another site that’s this well connected by transit without qualifying for the transit incentive,” Kimberly Holien, the city’s land use, design and preservation manager, told planning commissioners.

Still, dozens of nearby residents expressed disagreement with CPED’s recommendation, both in public comments and in testimony before the vote.

They said the building would be out of scale with the neighborhood, depriving their homes of light, and they worried it would clog Grand Avenue with renters’ cars, making the road more difficult to navigate during snow emergencies. Some residents urged the commission to delay the vote until November, when the Minneapolis 2040 plan is scheduled to take effect. 

“I’m asking you to think about the nitty gritty of a neighborhood when you make a decision,” said resident Barbara Davis, who argued that the hilly terrain of Tangletown makes walking to transit less convenient than CPED staff claimed.

Before the vote, senior city planner Lindsey Silas said the site will retain its high-density zoning district even after the 2040 plan takes effect; the plan’s land-use designations don’t carry legal force until the City Council writes them into the zoning code, which it aims to do next year. Commissioner Amy Sweasy said the commission has to judge applications based on current laws.

Planning Commissioner Jeremy Schroeder, who represents Tangletown as Ward 11’s city council member, voted against the variance along with Alissa Luepke-Pier. He cited the block’s “snow issues” and said he disagrees with CPED’s assessment that the project meets the requirements for a transit-based parking reduction.

Sweasy voted in favor of the variance.

“This commission has voted to eliminate parking on so many pieces of property,” she said. “At least this one has some.”

Segal said construction is tentatively expected to start in spring 2020.