Prefabricated apartment units are coming to the Wedge.
Developer Bruce Dachis is planning to install seven apartment “pods” atop his three-story commercial building at 29th & Bryant, just south of the Midtown Greenway. The units will be built off site and placed atop the building via crane.
The project will include one studio apartment, five two-bedroom, two-story apartments and a seventh unit in which Dachis will live. It won’t displace any of the building tenants, which include Soo Visual Arts Center, Awaken Pilates Studio and R&M Diamonds, among others.
“I’m basically building this because I want a place to live,” Dachis said.
Dachis estimated that the two-bedroom units would cost $2,500 a month. The studio would cost about half of that, he said.
“We think we’re really competitive in that price range,” he said.
Dachis will extend the staircases and elevators up to accommodate the addition. The project also will include a two-car parking garage and closing the curb along Bryant Avenue. Residents will park in an outdoor lot already on the property.
The units could be placed on the building as soon as this fall, Dachis said.
Features will include decks that run the length of the units and high-efficiency furnaces and glass, which will contribute to a small energy footprint, Dachis said. His unit will have a aluminum skin, while the remaining unit will have a charcoal color.
“We’re using industrial material but in a contemporary design,” Dachis said. “We think this will be a cool art piece.”
Dachis is working with St. Paul architecture firm Alchemy, which has built about 50 prefabricated projects since 2002. The “weeHouses,” as Alchemy calls them, are built in factories and delivered by flatbed truck to the sites. It takes the firm about nine months to complete projects from start to finish.
weeHouses consist of individual pods that are either 14 or 16 feet long and up to 60 feet wide. The pods can function as stand-alone units or can be combined to create large dwellings. Dachis’ project will include about 15 pods, for example.
“It’s really a small, efficient, sort of tool box of a structure,” Alchemy founder Geoffrey Warner said.
A one-pod unit can include up to three bedrooms and two bathrooms, according to Warner. Two- and three-pod units are typically between 1,200 and 1,600 square feet, while four-pod units run between 1,8000 and 2,400 square feet.
The pods arrive on site between 80 and 90 percent complete and come standard with small porches and all interior plumbing, electrical, cabinetry, hardwood flooring, windows and doors. Heating and cooling systems and garages can be added.
Modular work starts at $80,000 and runs up to $300,000, according to the Alchemy website. Other costs include site work, delivery, unit placement and land. Alchemy charges a 15 percent fee on top of that.
Alchemy’s website touts the weeHouses as consuming less energy and having fewer greenhouse gas than a standard home. The firm can incorporate sustainability features such as rainwater collection, passive solar heating and solar panels into the projects.
Mary Bujold, president of Golden Valley-based Maxfield Research & Consulting, said there have been several groups trying to encourage more builders to build prefabricated units. She predicted that more developers are going to consider it, in order to save costs.
“I think that they’ve really improved the whole prefabrication thing,” she said.
Jim Lutz and his wife, Kaywin Feldman own a four-pod weeHouse in Linden Hills. Lutz said they were looking for a contemporary home with an abundance of natural light and added that it’s been a great house in which to live.
The Minneapolis Planning Commission on June 26 approved a conditional-use permit for the Dachis’ project, allowing him to increase the height of the building from four to five stories. It also approved a variance to reduce the setback on the south side of the building.
The Wedge Neighborhood Association board has supported the project, according to Vice President Katie Jones Schmitt.