Church-to-apartment plan approved

Joyce United Methodist Church
A developer is planning to convert a 112-year-old South Uptown church into apartments. Photo by Zac Farber

Plans to convert a South Uptown church into a 34-unit apartment building have been approved.

The renovated Joyce United Methodist Church at 31st & Fremont will have 18 studio and 16 one-bedroom apartments and space for bike storage. Two sections of roof on the building’s south side will be converted into small patios.

Some units in the three-story building will be multi-level, with living and kitchen space on one floor and the bedrooms in small lofts. That includes two units that will be located in what was once the church bell tower.

Plans also call for restoring exterior stucco, restoring or replacing windows and constructing an ADA-accessible ramp on the building’s north side.

Parking is not required for the building because it has fewer than 51 units and is less than a quarter mile from a bus route with at least four midday trips per hour.

The developer, Minneapolis-based Northland Real Estate Group, is not planning to include any spots.

Northland purchased the 113-year-old Joyce building for $500,000 in June 2019 and this past year successfully pushed to get the property designated as a local historic landmark.

In June, the Heritage Preservation Commission signed off on Northland’s proposed plans for the building, despite objections from neighbors who thought that 34 units was too many for the site. A July appeal was denied by the City Council.

At an Oct. 5 Planning Commission meeting, neighbor Michael Radel, who lives immediately south of the site, said he’s concerned about noise on the patios and a dumpster for the property being outside of the building. In letters to the city, other neighbors said they’re concerned about the lack of parking.

Northland principal Brian Farrell told planning commissioners that a lot of residents of a similar apartment project he recently completed in St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood do not have cars. He also said he might talk with the owner of a nearby Uptown ramp about getting discounted rates if there is a demand for parking spots.

The Joyce project was approved by the Planning Commission on a 6-0 vote. Farrell said construction will start around Jan. 1 and will last eight to 10 months. He said rents will be contingent on project costs.