New student housing project plans approved by local groups

by Robyn Repya

Preliminary plans for a new student housing development passed through the Minneapolis Planning Commission on Tuesday evening.

The development – scheduled to open August 2003 – was heavily scrutinized by both the Planning Commission and the Prospect Park and East River Road Improvement Association.

The new housing project will consist of four separate buildings, which will house 612 students in 174 units at maximum occupancy. The buildings will be located on Huron Boulevard and Fulton Street, immediately following the ramps to Interstate 94.

The property will also include a clubhouse attached to the second building, a large black top surface for parking and a few garage spaces.

Apartments in the development will range in price from $635 and $1,000 per bed. Parking, allotted on a lottery basis, is estimated to cost $35 per space.

PPERRIA members voiced concern about the vinyl siding that is planned for the project, calling it ugly and cheap.

“When you’re coming off the freeway to the University it’s the first thing you’ll see – it’s not a very nice gateway,” said Florence Littman, co-chairwoman of the association’s zoning committee.

The association and Planning Commission also criticized the housing developer for the lack of elevators in any of the buildings.

According to city code, a four-story building similar to the planned development is not required to have an elevator. However, elevators exist in other local housing facilities such as Dinnaken House, University Village and the Grand Marc.

Sally Rowling, project manager for JPI Apartment Development, said elevators weren’t included in the plans because they are not required and adding them would have severely raised the cost, adding $80,000 per building for one elevator.

Planning Commission Vice President Randall Bradley said he is concerned the developers are putting profit above quality of life for the buildings’ residents.

Bradley said he is concerned about accessibility for disabled students. He questioned, for example, how a disabled student living on the first floor would get to a friends’ apartment on the fourth floor. Rowlings said disabled individuals’ activities would be heavily restricted.

Discussion about the absence of elevators dominated most of the meeting and was a sticking point for many on the commission.

But because the city cannot impose restrictions on plans if they are not required by code, they agreed upon a compromise.

The compromise stipulated that there must be an elevator in at least one of the buildings. Members agreed it should be located in the building connected to the clubhouse to provide disabled residents access to more of the property.

“The code is not the issue, accessibility for handicapped people is the issue,” Bradley said.

Developers for the project said they hope to start construction in spring 2002.

Robyn Repya welcomes comments at [email protected]