New apartment building could stretch half a block in South Uptown

A developer has tentative plans to build a 75-unit apartment on Hennepin Avenue. The two houses pictured and the two buildings to their north would be demolished. Photo by Zac Farber

A developer is fine-tuning plans to build a half-block-long, multi-story apartment building on a stretch of Hennepin Avenue just north of Lakewood Cemetery. 

The Lander Group and ESG Architecture have tentative plans to build a 75-unit apartment above a 90-car underground parking garage at 3501–3525 Hennepin Ave., according to a Nov. 11 presentation delivered to a South Uptown neighborhood committee. 

The project would require the demolition of two houses, a 4,000-square-foot commercial building and a mixed-use building filled by Ophelia’s Salon and five one-bedroom apartment units.

The proposed apartment building would range from 3–5 stories in height, and its north tip would reach into the parking lot behind the commercial building owned by Lander at the southeast corner of 35th & Hennepin. 

“It’s not going to be this big mass,” South Uptown Executive Director Scott Engel said. “It would almost look like there would be three different buildings.”

The proposed site of the apartment encompasses six city lots that are currently zoned for either medium-density residential or small-scale commercial uses, with apartments capped at four stories and commercial buildings at 2.5 stories. Under the Minneapolis 2040 plan, all six lots would be rezoned to Corridor 4 — a mixed-used designation allowing buildings of four stories or higher along high-frequency transit routes. Changes to the city’s zoning code are not expected until 2020.

The site has a steep grade differential angling down from Hennepin Avenue toward Girard Avenue, which would make it cheaper to dig underground parking than it would cost on level terrain. Engel said there were concerns in the neighborhood that the proposed building would tower over single-family homes along Girard.

ESG Architecture’s Bob Loken told the South Uptown neighborhood’s land use committee that the project team wanted part of the apartment building to reach five stories to offset the cost of including city-mandated affordable units. A new Minneapolis policy requiring affordable housing in all new apartment projects over 20 units is due to be adopted by the City Council.

Rents in the five apartments that would be razed are around $1,000 per month. The two three- and four-bedroom houses rent for $1,800 and $2,000 per month; both houses also contain separate basement units, each of which rents for $950.

The Lander Group and ESG Architecture did not respond to requests to comment for this story. Engel said project staff plan to present “more firmed-up plans” in the coming months. 

Ken Bressler owns the two houses and the commercial building at 3517 Hennepin Ave., which serves as the office for his company Builders & Remodelers, Inc. He said he has signed a purchase agreement to sell Lander the three properties pending City Council approval of the redevelopment project.

Bressler said that developer Schafer Richardson had approached him three years ago about building a 57-unit apartment building, but he wasn’t then ready to sell.